Today, Microsoft ends years of waiting by announcing that a SharePoint app is coming soon for iPhone, followed by apps for Windows 10 and Android.
With the launch of this app, SharePoint’s 190 million-license business will finally join the rest of Microsoft Office suite in the so-called “cloud first, mobile first” vision laid out by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
SharePoint is Microsoft’s team collaboration product, and does a lot of different things – you can share information on it, use it for a corporate intranet, search company documents stored in a bunch of different places, and much more.
It’s the kind of multi-purpose enterprise product that startups like Box love to pick on, but it’s a huge product for Microsoft, generating more than $3 billion a year in revenues for the company.
In addition to announcing these apps, Microsoft is officially releasing the latest version, SharePoint Server 2016.
This news also is a kind of homecoming for Microsoft Corporate VP Jeff Teper: He led SharePoint from its inception in 2000 through 2012, at which point he took a bigger-picture role in helping to lead the crucial Office 365 cloud service. He was also tasked with advising Nadella on the company’s cloud shift.
In late 2015, Teper rejoined SharePoint to lead it forward into the future, amid mounting competition from collaboration companies like Box and Slack.
In his abscence, Teper says, the SharePoint team was more concerned with reliability and stability than advancing the product into the modern era of the smartphone – even as apps like Microsoft Outlook have thrived on platforms like iPhone and Android.
“When I came back last summer, the team was focused on earning the trust of businesses by making it work great,” Teper says. “The biggest thing we’ve been working on is getting it into the cloud.”
Around 40 percent of SharePoint’s 190 million seats (industry-speak for licenses sold) are using the Office 365 cloud version, Teper says, and he only expects that to increase. That means that those users are getting new updates to SharePoint, as a subscription model, plus the ability to access their files and sites from anywhere.
Still, lots of customers use SharePoint with their on-premises servers, meaning it can be hard to access them when not connected to the corporate intranet.
With SharePoint Server 2016, Teper says that it’s much easier for all of SharePoint’s customers to make their team sites accessible from anywhere, which is important with the new smartphone app. On both the desktop and mobile, SharePoint is designed to be the “central piece” of your working life, with deep integrations with the whole Office 365 suite, Teper says. A new SharePoint homepage can make it easier to see the integrations with other Office products.
The iPhone version is available “in the coming weeks,” with Android and Windows after that. That means full access to your team’s files, calendars, and announcements news feed, from anywhere. Teper says that it’s like “putting the intranet in your pocket.”
Teper also boasts of SharePoint’s newfound integration with the Microsoft Graph, which is a little bit like the famed Facebook Social Graph for the workplace. It means that on mobile and desktop, SharePoint will automatically prioritize and show you the documents and project files that are relevant to you at that moment.
“You no longer have to hunt for information, information hunts for you,” Teper says.
This news is going to make some waves: You might never guess from its status as a team-collaboration tool for the enterprise, but SharePoint has a huge and vibrant community of developers and enthusiasts.
One key to its success is the fact that you can customize it to do all sorts of things. Teper even says that people have had their careers made by how well and quickly they built a SharePoint site, impressing their bosses.
“I think that SharePoint was this magical app that did stuff out of the box, but could be adapted to specific needs,” Teper says.
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Microsoft says that its partners have created a $10 billion economy around SharePoint, selling installation, customization, and migration services. And people actually love SharePoint, attending parties and mixers all over the globe to meet up with like-minded folks and pick up tips on how to use it even better.
Those parties apparently get pretty wild, Teper says.
“When it’s time for happy hour, people have a ‘SharePint,'” Teper says. “This is serious business.”