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
Backup is improved. The backup and restore capabilities built into SharePoint 2007 were blunt instruments. In SharePoint 2010 you can be more selective about restores by browsing an unattached content database, locating the sites or lists you need, saving them, then restoring them to the production database.
Scripts and sandboxes
While script-based administration has detractors as well as supporters, I find the PowerShell command support in SharePoint 2010 to be a big plus and a big improvement over the older (but still maintained) Cmd.exe and Stsadm.exe environments. Yes, there are too many cmdlets to learn easily (100 core Windows cmdlets and 300 SharePoint cmdlets), but they have a help system, they pipe together in logical ways, and in many cases you'll only have to figure out a command sequence once, then save the script and apply it to other sites. Overall, that's a big time saver over going through the GUI for every site in every farm.
On a SharePoint server with many custom controls and large lists, one site that hogs CPU, memory, or database requests can damage the performance of all the sites on the server or even all the sites using the database. Throttling and list controls in SharePoint 2010 allow an administrator to control this per Web application.
In addition, custom solutions can be sandboxed, meaning that they can be given a restricted set of permissions and resource quotas, then run isolated. Sandboxing reduces the risk of allowing site owners to deploy their own solutions, balancing freedom against safety. Quota templates keep the overhead of controlling sandboxed solutions reasonable.
Branding in SharePoint 2010 has been made easier by revamping the way themes work. SharePoint 2010 themes are now compatible with PowerPoint themes. In many cases, companies will be able to import existing PowerPoint themes to apply the fonts and colors of the corporate brand. Perhaps future SharePoint sites won't all look like they've been turned out with the same cookie cutter.
SharePoint 2010 for developers
SharePoint 2010 is much more attractive for developers than SharePoint 2007 ever was. I wouldn't be surprised to see many ASP.Net developers adopt SharePoint 2010 for their larger customized sites. There will be less code to write, without giving up too much in the way of flexibility.
The list of improvements is long. In addition to better API support and more extension points, there is better tool support in Visual Studio 2010, Visio, and SharePoint Designer 2010. There's a straightforward way to connect to line-of-business applications. Many functions have been exposed to RESTful interfaces. There are more application templates. Debugging and monitoring are much better. And sandboxes offer a measure of protection for custom applications that was lacking previously.
Visual Studio 2010 offers a dozen SharePoint 2010 project types in two languages, C# and Visual Basic. Empty projects are used more often than you'd think, as containers for multiple controls, workflows, and other project items. A Visual Web Part is a new kind of project that combines a Web Part class with an ASP.Net user control; the latter can be designed visually within Visual Studio 2010, which makes Web Part design much easier than writing code to instantiate child controls. The downside of a Visual Web Part is that it cannot be deployed to a sandbox.
SharePoint workflows can be sequential or state machines, and they can be one-offs or parameterized reusable workflows. Workflows can be designed using Visio or SharePoint Designer in addition to Visual Studio. In SharePoint 2010, workflows do not have to be associated with a list. They can instead be site-level workflows, with their own start pages; this is an improvement.