First look: Microsoft SharePoint 2010 beta spreads the wealth
Major upgrade to Microsoft's Web site, intranet, and collaboration platform offers numerous and significant improvements for end-users, IT professionals, and developers
You'd also think that Microsoft has locked all SharePoint users into installing Microsoft Office, but SharePoint 2010 includes Office Web Apps, the new Web-based editions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. In the brief time I spent with them when evaluating the SharePoint beta, the Office Web Apps looked very promising, at least for viewing documents. (See InfoWorld's "first glimpse" at the Office Web Apps Technical Preview and InfoWorld's comparison of Office Web Apps with Google Docs and Zoho.)
It's always been relatively easy to convert Word documents to SharePoint pages, as well as to display PowerPoint slides online. In SharePoint 2010, you can also use Excel Services or Visio Services to publish spreadsheets or diagrams for browsing.
SharePoint 2010 for IT professionals
SharePoint 2010 promises IT professionals improved productivity, a scalable unified infrastructure, and flexible deployment. These features can be used to help provide governance and high availability. But again, they come at the cost of needing an up-to-date 64-bit server and database infrastructure.
Although server requirements are narrower, client support is broader. SharePoint 2010 fully supports 32-bit IE 7, IE 8, and Firefox 3.x running on Windows. Also, 64-bit IE 7 and IE 8, Firefox 3.x on non-Windows systems and Safari 3.x are supported as "level 2" browsers; they can be used to administer the site, but pages may not render with perfect fidelity. IE 6 is not supported. Site administrators can tune their content and CSS to support additional browsers for reading the site, but keep in mind that the AJAX and ASP.Net code used for editing SharePoint content is complex and under Microsoft's control.
I applaud Microsoft for dropping IE 6 support in SharePoint 2010. The company points out that it's not standards-compliant, which is not exactly breaking news. I hope Microsoft can stick to that decision; it might pave the way for the rest of us to be able to drop IE 6 support for our Web products.
Administrators have a choice of installing SharePoint 2010 with a GUI or with configuration files and PowerShell scripts. The former is easier; the latter is better for server farms and for disaster recovery. A new requirement is a Farm Passphrase, which protects a server farm from unauthorized server drops and adds.
Upgrades can be done in place or by attaching a database backup from SharePoint 2007 to a new SharePoint 2010 installation. Databases can run read-only during the upgrade to minimize downtime. Administrators can force all sites to upgrade to the new master pages and CSS, or allow each site owner to run with the old styles, preview the upgrade, correct any issues, and finally switch over to the new styles.
Administrators now have more control over SharePoint site proliferation. It's a two-pronged strategy: Use Active Directory Markers to keep track of SharePoint servers, and/or use Group Policies to control where SharePoint can and can't be installed.
The redesigned Central Administration pages in SharePoint 2010 are easier to understand and use; there's a lot less searching for tasks than before, and a lot less jumping around from menu to menu is required. The new layout is reminiscent of the Windows Vista control panel, but don't let that dissuade you -- it's still much better organized than before. The new ribbon interface does help to keep like functions clustered, and the new wizards make some of the harder setups easier to complete successfully.