In reviewing the major changes, rumors and announcements from Microsoft in 2014, here are my top 10 predictions for Office 365 as we move into 2015.
10. New Version of SharePoint On Premise
SharePoint on premise hasn’t been changed much since its release in 2013 while Office 365 has incrementally evolved as part of their “cloud first” strategy. It is expected that the next version of SharePoint will be announced at the Ignite conference coming up in May, 2015.
Given the number of features in Office 365 that are now cloud only, it’s not clear what will still make it in the next version of SharePoint on premise.
9. Office 365 Takes Over from SharePoint as the “Portal”
As the various services have evolved within Office 365, SharePoint as the core “portal” experience has been pushed back in favor of the Office 365 experience. In 2014, we saw the introduction of branding for Office 365 and the introduction of the App Launcher as examples of Microsoft’s go forward strategy to integrate the various portal layers that have evolved in silos into an Office 365 integrated experience.
8. SharePoint becomes a Back-End Document Repository For Custom Applications
With the introduction of the Office 365 APIs, the new Delve APIs and the evolution of the CSOM based SharePoint APIs, Microsoft is trying to position Office 365 and its various repositories (documents, email, conversations, etc.) to be the backend for custom web and mobile experiences.
With these new APIs, we no longer need to be in the business of building web parts, server side code, and understanding the nuances of SharePoint development – I just see SharePoint, Exchange, Lync, Yammer, etc. as repositories for me to code against for uploading content, searching for news, etc. This means that I can build applications using my own tools, my own deployment vehicle and my own user experience.
7. Better Integration of Azure and Office 365
Azure and Office 365 have evolved in a somewhat isolated fashion, with Azure focused on general cloud hosting and Office 365 focused on collaboration. However, there is a lot of potential with integrating the new services together and a huge competitive differentiator for Microsoft.
Imagine being able to use Azure ML against Office 365 repositories, imagine being able to automate SharePoint tasks using Azure Batch, and imagine being able to communicate updates from your Hadoop data processing through Office 365 portals. There are lots of possibilities and while these are all possible using a bunch of custom coding, expect these types of scenarios to get increasingly easier as Microsoft evolves both services.
6. Increasing Isolation of Branding
Microsoft has already recommended against custom branding of SharePoint in Office 365. Expect this to continue as Microsoft takes further control of the out of the box Office 365 user experience.
5. New Fit for Purpose Apps instead of a Single Portal
Microsoft released the new Office 365 Video Portal, a specifically designed portal for videos. In the past, this would have been a web part that fit within the core SharePoint portal user experience but this is clearly limiting the ability for Microsoft to compete with other fit for purpose experiences.
Expect more of these types of fit for purpose “apps” to take over more and more of the core portal experience provided currently by SharePoint.
4. Microsoft Plays Well with Others
Do you remember the days when the only way to access SharePoint was on a Windows Phone? In 2014, Microsoft dramatically pivoted and started releasing first class applications on IOS and Android. Expect this to continue in 2015 as Microsoft has clearly moved to a more open model and recognition that they can no longer own the entire platform and must share with other players.
In a similar way, Microsoft has also been integrating on the backend with Salesforce and Dropbox. Expect more integration with other SAAS providers as Microsoft attempts to be the core integrator of all these disparate services into a unified portal hub.
3. Improvements to Cloud File Storage
One of the key services for Microsoft is OneDrive for Business. However, compared to other services such as DropBox, it is immature and doesn’t provide the same performance.
What started as a service with a 25 GB limit for OneDrive for Business is now 1 TB for every user – expect this allocation of storage to continue to increase to unlimited in 2015 (it’s already unlimited for personal users). Similarly, the 2 GB maximum file size was recently increased to 10 GB for OneDrive for Business. One of the other major barriers is the 20,000 limit on files that can be synchronized in OneDrive for Business.
As the demand for larger files and the number of files increases, one of the key challenges with OneDrive for Business is performance – it’s too slow to synchronize and not reliable enough to be considered rock solid for replacement of your “H Drive”. Microsoft has recognized this and has announced changes to the service to improve performance – expect this to evolve in 2015 as customers demand ever increasing sizes of files,
2. A Replacement for InfoPath
Microsoft has promised a replacement for InfoPath when it officially retired it as a platform for creating electronic forms. A replacement strategy was noticeably absent in last year’s SharePoint conference so expect some further announcements in 2015 around electronic forms and light weight form development within the Office 365 platform.
1. Retirement of SharePoint as a Public Facing Web Site Content management Platform
Just recently, Office 365 has dropped the free public facing web site feature from its lineup. While you can continue to build web sites on the SharePoint 2013 on premise platform, its a very expensive platform compared to many other options on the market and with the evolution of the Office 365 APIs, Microsoft is clearly pushing in the direction of SharePoint as a backend content repository but allowing you to build your user experiences on easier and cheaper platforms such as WordPress or other .NET based WCM platforms.