For once, it looks like I may have guessed correctly about some enhancements we can expect in the next version of Microsoft SharePoint and Office: Office 14.
Three weeks ago, I was the keynote speaker at the SharePoint Information Worker Conference 2008. In my keynote, I gave my best guess at some of the enhancements we might see in the next version of SharePoint (expected sometime in late 2009).
Today, while listening to Bill Gates' Keynote address at the Microsoft SharePoint Conference in Seattle, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that I may have guessed right on my #1 prediction.
Gates said that a top priority for the next version of SharePoint is to beef up SharePoint Lists. SharePoint's List features don't sound as sexy and appealing as some of its other features, such as BI and the Business Data Catalog, but Lists are really the bedrock of the product and have proven to be a breath of fresh air to information workers who previously had to rely on Excel spreadsheets and Access databases for their seemingly endless need for tracking applications.
Unfortunately, so far SharePoint's List features have not been robust enough to develop true database applications. Fundamental features that application developers have come to expect in a relational database management system have been absent so far in SharePoint Lists due to a layer of architecture between SharePoint Lists and the underlying DBMS, SQL Server.
As I understood Gates today, that is all going to change in the next version of SharePoint. In the next version, SQL Server will "understand" SharePoint Lists and it will be possible to create a List that will, in effect, create a native table in the SQL Server database. Furthermore, because it is native, this will allow developers to make use of the more robust features of the DBMS and will eliminate the current performance issues with SharePoint Lists that have over 2000 rows.
In my mind, this improvement will also open the door for thousands of ISVs to port their vertical market applications to SharePoint as a platform, if they choose to do so.
I think this is great news for SharePoint as a development platform.