Microsoft SharePoint is a very popular topic with our clients: what it's useful for, how they should govern it, what its gotchas are, and so on. Needless to say, a common question is, "What do you think is coming in the next version of SharePoint?"
My typical response is to chuckle and say, "Beats me. Microsoft hasn't told me." (Which they haven't. I got their vision view 18 months ago, but nothing specific recently. That will probably change in the next several months as the next version of SharePoint rolls into beta.) However, after saying that, I then go on to say, "But that doesn't mean I don't have an opinion. Here's an educated guess at what I think will be in the next version. This takes into account how Microsoft thinks about the world, current product holes that need to be fixed, and weaving together disconnected comments made by Microsoft."
So when clients ask, "What's in the next version of SharePoint?" here's what I've been telling them.
The Vision is Moving to Ubiqitous Information
SharePoint 2007 and Office 2007 were about binding the two products together: Office was the runway into SharePoint, and SharePoint is the portal for information workers. When fending off productivity suites such as OpenOffice.org and IBM Lotus Symphony, Microsoft counterpunches with, "Why do that? You lose the synergy with SharePoint." When you add Microsoft's cloud initiative (Azure) to the mix, SharePoint 14 will be all about gathering the information that information workers need no matter where the information resides or where the worker resides. Office and SharePoint integration will probably become tighter, but the integration points will become broader as well: the cloud, mobile workers and devices, business intelligence, etc.
Consolidated Administration of Multiple Server Farms
In terms of administration, SharePoint 2007 still shows its departmental portal heritage: the server farm is the highest point of integration. Enterprises fielding multiple server farms have to manage them with separate consoles. Third parties have rushed in to fill this void, and at the moment Microsoft points to them when customers bring up the issue. While that's not a bad bridge strategy for several years, at this point Microsoft needs to step up and offer uber administration capabilities if it wants to continue to fuel SharePoint growth. This should include not only general administration capabilities, but also the unifying of taxonomies (a la SchemaLogic) and site design.
The Line Between In-House SharePoint and Hosted SharePoint Will Blur
Microsoft offers both software and SaaS (SharePoint Online) versions of SharePoint. In fact, it recently announced that SharePoint Online was now available outside the U.S. At the moment, the two offerings are somewhat different--for example, enterprises can customize the version they're running in-house more than the online version. However, over time those differences will diminish, to where an enterprise will be able to sign up for a SharePoint license and be able to move the systems around with relative ease (60% in-house/40% in the cloud today; 50% in-house/50% in the cloud two months from now).
SharePoint Search Will Be Bolstered
On this point, Microsoft has been more forthcoming. The company has been working at folding some of FAST's search technology into SharePoint and is now talking about two forthcoming products: FAST Search for SharePoint (search behind the firewall) and FAST Search for Internet Business (search within a company's web site). The Microsoft press release is here; Larry Cannell's blog post about FAST Search for SharePoint is here. The UI within SharePoint Search will probably improve (a la third parties such as Coveo) and people search will probably improve as well.
Hopefully, Social Software Will Improve
The blogs and wikis that ship with SharePoint 2007 have all the earmarks of a last-minute addition: enough to be hawk the features on the datasheet, but not much else. Because of that, SharePoint customers have been doing one of three things in this area: (1) making do (usually enterprises that have never used a blog or wiki before), (2) using a third-party vendor that integrates with SharePoint (e.g., Atlassian or Socialtext), or (3) going for a social software platform, such as Jive. In short, Microsoft is losing business here, and it will improve its social software offering to fix that problem (I hope).
Those are my thoughts; it will be interesting to see how closely they map to reality a year from now.