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SharePoint and Office 2010 Debut

By Stuart J. Johnston

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Microsoft on Wednesday officially launched Office 2010 after a three-year wait for the successor to its popular Office 2007 productivity suite. However, Office 2010 is only part of the equation that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) hopes will lure business buyers to adopt the new version.

Enter SharePoint 2010, Microsoft's premier collaboration and content management technology for Office 2010, which also became available on Wednesday. Beyond the many incremental improvements in Office 2010 itself (see Microsoft Office 2010 Arrives for Businesses), SharePoint 2010 provides the ability for information workers to use the updated suite of productivity applications to collaborate with others more deeply than with the previous version, according to Microsoft. The combination of SharePoint 2010 with Office 2010 is part of Microsoft's play to lock in users with what it describes as a one-two punch of the products working seamlessly together.

For example, one of the most important features for collaboration is the capability for users of Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 to co-author documents concurrently, Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's Business Division, told the business customers and media gathered at New York's NBC Studios for the launch. That capability is provided by SharePoint Workspace 2010, formerly known as the Groove peer-to-peer client.

"The No. 1 requested feature in SharePoint 2010 is 'Let me take my content offline,'" Chris Capossela, senior vice president of the Information Worker Product Management Group at Microsoft, added. Additionally, using Office 2010's Web Apps running in a browser, users can work with documents stored on SharePoint 2010 servers without having the full PC-based applications installed.

SharePoint's user interface also adds the "ribbon" tool bar that was originally added in Office 2007. Other new features add new flexibility to collaboration, including the ability to continue to work on a document even when the user is not online.

Neither are the Office 2010 applications the only ones that take advantage of SharePoint 2010's capabilities. For instance, Microsoft also added SharePoint technologies to a new enterprise search package named the FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint. Beyond that, new SharePoint ties have also been added to two other products that reached general availability on Wednesday -- Microsoft's business diagramming tool, Visio 2010, and Microsoft's project management tool, Project 2010.

For one thing, browser users can view Visio diagrams via SharePoint 2010, although they can't edit them. Project Server 2010 meanwhile requires SharePoint 2010 to run, although the Project Server is not always necessary to use Project 2010. Developers that use Office 2010's Access development application can also build databases that are hosted on SharePoint 2010.

Microsoft did not forget to upgrade SharePoint's security either. Last week, the company announced it is shipping Forefront Protection 2010 for SharePoint and Active Directory Federation Services 2.0 -- both directed towards keeping SharePoint 2010 users and critical data, what Microsoft refers to as a business' "lifeblood," safe from hackers or inadvertent exposure.

In a report issued last week by Directions on Microsoft, analysts said that, for many business customers, the decision to adopt SharePoint 2010 will help guide their plans for Office 2010.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.