Last week Windows 8 developer preview was released into the world, users were able to install Windows 8 as their new operating system or install it as a virtual machine. One of the biggest new features of Windows 8 was the Windows phone 7 style front page view, the applications and widget ’tiles’ are made mainly from HTML5 and java which is a new direction for Microsoft, but what does this mean for SharePoint?
So far there has been no word from Microsoft as to what Windows 8 might do for SharePoint, but there have been some theories thrown around the internet as to what the new OS could do for SharePoint. One blogger (http://lncn.eu/eghw)thinks that it could greatly improve the SharePoint experiance. “Making Windows 8 widgets from SharePoint lists will be ideal to show important information to the user: Sales forecasts, New team members, Team workloads, New documents published, Internal news and many more.” This could make SharePoint administration much easier to keep up with on large networks, this wouldn’t just benefit administrators but all users, having lists be updated in tiles, allowing them to read announcements and access new documents directly from the Windows 8 front page, this would greatly improve SharePoint’s userbility in my opinion.
Last weekend it was confirmed that our contracts have been extended for another six months, which is great news. To secure this extension, Michael and i had to write a brief plan saying what we would be doing in those extra 6 months, so I though I would put it in the blog.
There are many areas of Microsoft Office 365 that are still yet to be fully evaluated for use within the university. With the work that we have done in Office 365, only a handful of features are being used in our showcase environment, there are many more features that could be used to improve the SharePoint working environment using Office 365 Enterprise edition.
Over the next 6 months we aim to be involved in heavy research and testing, looking into how the features of Office 365 can be tailored to benefit the different departments within the University.
We will be researching in depth and working with the following features:
- Complex Workflows – To simplify common business processes
- Single Sign On – To keep in step with the current university single sign on
- Flexible branding and customization – To apply University branding to the site
- Audience Targeting
- Development with Info Path, Designer and Workspaces
- My Sites (User Profiles/Personal Online Storage)
- Mobile Phone integration
- Cross platform compatibility
- SharePoint Online site structure
To test Office365 we are considering developing a full working environment for the Online Services team or any other team that might be interested, this would allow us to test the system in real world work environment.
We will also be looking heavily into many different migration methods to find out which method would be best suited. To do this we will be in contact with Microsoft, 3rd party agents and their clients to ensure we choose the best method.
These are just some of the things we will be working on in the next few months, as we continue we will most likely think of more tasks and come across new features that need to be researched/implemented.
From a review written by Mary Branscombe for PC Pro, it is suggested that there are a few features missing from the beta version of Office 365. It is not yet clear when or if the features discussed will be implemented.
The first point Mary discusses is the lack of tools available for partners to manage Office 365 for customers. It is said that these tools will become available at some point, possibly once the service goes live to the public. At the moment these tools are said to be missing due to the fact Microsoft are still working on privacy concerns. At this stage I cannot see this being an issue for the implementation of the service within the University.
Another issue Mary discusses is that voice has not been fully integrated with the online service. It is not yet possible to give out one telephone number for all your possible locations; desktop, deskphone or mobile. Currently Lync offers voice and video conversations, but only through a desktop client, meaning that you cannot take advantage of this feature should you be on the move.
Another potential problem is the lack of federation of public IM services. Lync will only let you connect with Windows Live users, and not Google, AOL or Yahoo.
Lync Online does not have many management tools, although you can control domain federation to allows connections with partnering companies, using blacklists or whitlists. However, currently in the beta version you require a Lync Online hosting provider to on-premise Lync servers to make this function work. This is expected to be fixed before the service goes live to the public later this year.
As explained by Microsoft at the announcement of Office 365 last year, it (Office 365) will expand to include Microsoft Dynamics Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Online at some point this year, which will enable organisations of all types and sizes to experience Microsoft’s complete business productivity.
Dynamics Customer Relationship Management is a multi-lingual software package developed by Microsoft. Out of the box, the product focuses mainly on Sales, Marketing, and Service (help desk) departments.
Dynamics CRM is a server-client application, which, like Microsoft SharePoint, is primarily a web application which also supports extensive web service interfaces. Clients access Dynamics CRM either by using Microsoft IE (version 6 or later), most other web browsers or by a thick client plug-in to Microsoft Outlook.
Office 365 for Education
Microsoft also plans this year to have a dedicated version of the suite for educational institutions.It is an improvement and rebrand from the current live@edu. Microsoft can taylor the suite to the specific needs of the establishment. For students the service will be free, unless the Professional Plus (desktop version of the applications) has been opted for. In which case there would be an approximate cost of £1 per user per month. There will be a charge for educators and staff in the region of £7 – £9 per user per month. The variance depends on whether Professional Plus is being used.