So, I am off to the Microsoft SharePoint Conference to learn all about SPS 2010 and hang out with some great SharePoint peeps. I will also be tweeting as much as possible during the conference. Initially I was planning on just using my iPhone for tweets as the laptop will never make it through a day and power figures to be at a premium.

Getting from San Antonio to Las Vegas is a two stage affair with a layover in Dallas. I don’t fly that often and was unpleasantly surprised to have to pay money to check my luggage. I think in the future I will be flying Southwest as they do not charge for checked baggage

I got into Vegas very late on Sunday night (about 11:45PM local time) and walking off the jetway I was surprised to see…

IMG_0644 Slot machines in the airport. Yep, I was definitely in Vegas.

Day 1

So there are something like 7900 attendees at this convention. The last convention that I attended with this kind of crowd was Dragon*Con in Atlanta many years ago. This one seems more crowded (I think because we are all trying to get to the same places). After a nice breakfast we all filtered into the main hall for the keynote address. I ended up in the fifth row off to the side a bit. In front of me was a huge screen that I ended up watching. It was like being in an IMAX presentation, but all about SharePoint.

IMG_0658 this was the view from my seat. It really is better then the photo shows.IMG_0660 and here is Steve Balmer on the big screen in front of my seat. He was very high energy and fun to listen to. So, what did we learn?

Well, one thing that has become readily apparent from this convention is that Microsoft learned a ton from the roll out of MOSS 2007. The biggest thing they learned was that as great an improvement over SPS2003 that MOSS was, they did a terrible job of actually preparing the community for rolling out and using MOSS. They have built everything about SPS 2010 to fix that basic problem. How?

  1. The Beta will be released in November – this will give the community almost 9 months to prepare for the new product and instead of it hitting production and no one knowing what it does…we will all be ready and hopefully trained in how to use it.
  2. The lessons MS has learned from SharePoint Online – Steve hammered this one home and you can see it in the interface and also in the inclusion of PowerShell in the product. MS managed thousands of SharePoint servers and has a vested interest in being able to manage them easily. Thus that scar tissue is being baked into the product to make all of our lives easier to manage servers. One example: You can now set up Sandboxes and run solutions in them. This means that one server farm can host multiple applications and even multiple solutions and the fear of a badly written chunk of code killing the server is greatly reduced. It also means that the requirement to load solutions only via Central Admin is now gone (with the proper security rights). This is a double edged sword, but properly used can be very powerful for most organizations.
  3. Microsoft has banked on a much richer user interface in SPS2010. One big feature of that is the ubiquitous ribbon bar that is now how you work in SPS 2010. This is very nice as it makes the app look very much like Office and users see a familiar interface. You can even hide it like you do in Office. SPD has the new look, as does pretty much everything in SharePoint. This improvement is nice, but Microsoft has also baked in a ton of AJAX and most commands now run without having to post back at all. This makes the experience for users much more like a client app and makes people much happier.
  4. Silverlight is integral to SPS 2010 – well perhaps this is a overstatement, but it has a bit of truth to it as well. There is a built in Silverlight Media Player web part (oh a SPS 2010 now streams media) and instead of the very simple org chart there is now a Silverlight based org chart that shows the users photo and their place in the organization. Very nice use of Silverlight…how extensible it is remains to be seen.
  5. Search is vastly improved. It was already very good, but according to what I heard yesterday you can now have multiple indexers in a farm for both fail over and to make crawls faster. You partition your sites and then federate the results. Makes a ton of sense and you could likely do that in MOSS 2007 with some work. Also wildcards are OotB. They also have a new thing called Content Extractors. This is basically sort of like an IFilter in that looks inside of a document for specific keywords and then turns those into MetaData that can be used by the end user. So you can have the crawler index all of your document and give it a list of product names as part of the Content Extender and they will be tagged with the Product name it if appears in the document.
  6. Tight Integration with Office Client is not web based as well. This is important as every Office 2010 version ships with a web based version. This is powerful because it means that you can deliver to users that don’t have the office client on their system, but it also allows for cool things like search result previews. A demo they showed had a PPTX as a result and it would allow the user to scroll through the slides in the deck in the search results.
  7. The BCS (Business Connectivity Service) is vastly improved. Now you can connect to back end systems without having to hand code the appdef file. It also is designed to be two way. In the example they showed, they actually took a database table and exposed it in SharePoint using the BCS. Then they opened Outlook and exposed it again to users as Contact Cards in Outlook. The user could then open up the “Contact” in Outlook and edit the data and it wrote it back to the database.
  8. Social Integration – Microsoft is taking the Social Power of SharePoint to another level as well. With the powering up of People Search (things like nicknames and phonetic sounds alikes being part of the package) you can now write on a persons “wall” sort of like Facebook and leverage a much more dynamic interactivity.

There was a ton more, and that was just the Keynote and the first session I attended. I also hit sessions on ECM and WCM. There I saw what might be the most powerful feature I have seen so far…but that post will have to wait as I am off to breakfast and a new day of SharePoint goodness.