Microsoft readies SharePoint 2.0 collaboration platform

Microsoft Corp.'s upcoming release of its SharePoint Web collaboration platform Version 2.0 will focus on customization and be part of the Windows .Net Server 2003 operating system, according to Microsoft officials.

To be built on top of the Microsoft .Net Framework programming model and shipping in mid-2003, SharePoint Team Services 2.0 will first be released as a separate add-on and then be included with the operating system itself, company officials said at the Microsoft DevCon conference here on Friday. A technical beta release is due this fall while a broader marketing beta is planned for next winter.

Key to the product is customization. One critical element, Web parts, allows developers to insert components on Web pages for functions such as showing or listing enterprise data, said Michael Morton, Microsoft lead program manager for SharePoint.

SharePoint 2.0 relies on Microsoft's ASP .Net for page extensions. ASP .Net is a set of technologies for building Web applications and XML Web Services, according to Microsoft. With ASP .Net, pages execute on the server and generate markup such as XML or HTML that is sent to a desktop or mobile browser.

A SharePoint user applauded both the use of ASP .Net and the upcoming version of SharePoint in general.

"We've been using SharePoint Version 1 ever since it came out," said Stephen Hose, senior systems analyst for the U.S. Navy Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Ind. "The switch to ASP .Net is huge."

Hose said he has been using CAML (common application markup language) with SharePoint, but did not like it.

"With where they're going with ASP .Net, it makes the product wide open," Hose said. Version 2.0 boosts customization, enabling functions such as adding informational lists for groups or departments, he said.

Version 2.0 "just dramatically changes the landscape," Hose said.

Other highlights of Version 2.0 include an object model for accessing SharePoint information and an XML SOAP layer.

Another SharePoint product, SharePoint Portal Server, will remain separate from the operating system.

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