SharePoint 2007 – middleware for the masses
I have been playing around with SharePoint 2007 for a while now and I think I am most impressed by the power that it puts into the hands of IT savvy end users, to create line of business solutions and to enhance these solutions further by integration with Office 2007.
It seems to me that it’s these middleware and customization features in SharePoint that set it apart from the competition in this space.
Joe Wilcox talks to the same issue on the Microsoft Monitor blog, where he says:
Middleware, you ask? Whatever SharePoint was it certainly isn’t just portal software in the 2007 version. Microsoft has turned SharePoint into a multi-facited product for many business line applications, like business intelligence, workflow and search. Will SharePoint do any of these functions well, or has Microsoft tasked it with too many things? We won’t know until Microsoft gets the software out of beta and businesses put SharePoint into real production use. Functionally, SharePoint Server 2007 is middleware, whatever the origins.
These features are going to be a shock to IT managers and a delight to users, the inability for IT to respond to users needs has already led to an explosion of client side application development using Excel and Access, but now similar rich capabilities are going to be possible using Excel Server, Forms Server and the amazing tricks you can do using just SharePoint lists and workflow.
Fans of web 2.0 technologies will be happy as well with built in support for blogs, and wikis and the fact that pretty much everything in SharePoint 2007 is a list and every list can be RSS enabled! Podcasts are pretty easy as well, just RSS enable a document library, set the RSS feed to include enclosures and drop mp3 files into it and you have a podcast feed. I discuss this in more detail in this previous post.
Dion Hinchcliffe has a useful post that talks about blogs, wikis and web 2.0 as the next application platform (I used his diagram above), I think SharePoint 2007 meets all his requirements, but I think in his model he misses the importance of Lists as a way to make databases more approachable for normal users. SharePoint also offers some pretty compelling integration with Excel and Access for power users allowing easy, bulk data entry, visualization and analysis.
And finally Outlook offers limited offline support, although look to products like those from Colligo for more comprehensive offline support.