After months of buildup, Microsoft has released SharePoint 2010, the latest version of their collaboration platform. It’s garnering praise for tight integration with the new Office 2010, but SharePoint 2010 seems to otherwise be a fairly incremental release. And some folks are concerned about SharePoint 2010's SaaS challenges. Here are the details for your potential customer migrations.

One of SharePoint 2010’s most-touted new features is the real-time collaborative functionality it adds to Microsoft Office apps Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. A NetworkWorld review says that feature works as advertised, but the real draw of the new version is the enhanced page customization functionality -- something that didn’t get a lot of pre-launch lip service.

That functionality comes in form of an AJAX-powered editor that lets you make WSIWYG changes in a very Wiki-like format, as CMSWire points out, with the ease of page-linking that implies. Better yet, it supports changing the language of the browser chrome with a few clicks.

But SharePoint 2010 comes with its caveats. It’s 64-bit only, so VARs may have to upgrade some older hardware if they want to get in on this. Moreover, it doesn’t support Internet Explorer 6 at all, and older versions of most other Microsoft software constrains large chunks of functionality, so investing in a SharePoint 2010 license could mean investing in Windows Server 2008 R2 and Office 2010 whether you want to or not.

The other problem is that it’s simply not cloud-ready. When I spoke to Apptix yesterday, they told me that while hosted SharePoint 2010 is definitely on their roadmap, the product that Microsoft delivered isn’t a true multi-tenant solution and can’t be delivered as-a-service. It’s a stark contrast to Steve Ballmer’s public pro-cloud stance, and one that executive and friend of The VAR Guy Peter Coffee noted in a blog entry.

Of course, companies like Azaleos are offering managed SharePoint 2010 deployments. But that’s not really the same thing as real SaaS solutions, and when Coffee asks why SharePoint wasn’t built on Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud platform, I have to nod in agreement.

The other thing going against SharePoint 2010 is that for the first time, SharePoint finds itself facing stiff cloud competition from companies like Google,, and Alfresco. So the real question here is whether or not the seemingly incremental SharePoint 2010 release is enough to break the momentum of its competitors.

Still, we realize SharePoint is one of Microsoft's most popular franchises, with annual sales now topping $1 billion. Plus, many influential VAR and MSP organizations -- such as HTG Peer Groups -- leverage SharePoint for their own internal business practices. Translation: Microsoft's channel seems primed for SharePoint 2010, despite some of the challenges outlined above.

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