Speculation on SPS vNext

I'm trying to shake a cold, so what follows may be entirely the result of too much cough medicine. Someone asked what to expect from SPS in the Office 12 timeframe, and the fact is that not much was announced at PDC. There was OFF313: Web Content Management Application Development and Engine Extensibility, and. . . that was about it. I wasn't in on the TAP and I'm not under any NDAs with the SharePoint team, so there's no time like now to walk the plank and speculate.

What do we know? Workflow and document/records management are finally baked into WSS, and many features in SPS 2006 will be pushed down to WSS. For example, there's the Business Data Catalog for bringing external data into WSS (which will be the feature most loved by IT Architects). It used the namespace "ApplicationRegistry" in the PDC demos. With it, you can recreate the SPS Audience feature inside WSS v3 by creating implementing a simple set of interfaces for Active Directory. Will that connector be available out-of-box? Will a connector be available for LDAP? Neither would surprise me, and if they don't show up, you can bet that someone will write them and the corresponding web parts (to filter by Audience) for free.

We also know rough timelines. Office 12 Beta 1, including WSS 3 will be released in November 2005. Release-to-manufacturing (RTM) is scheduled for the second half of 2006. That puts beta 2 between Spring and TechEd. So where does the SPS beta cycle fit?

At PDC, a few presenters noted that features for SPS vNext still hadn't been locked down, and there were internal "discussions" over which themes would characterise the new version. Does this mean it won't RTM until 2006? Maybe. Unless they held back on a set of features that could be either WSS or SPS, depending on who wins these discussions on themes. That's real possible.

We also know that Microsoft Content Management Server (CMS) will be reincarnated in SPS vNext, and 7 or 8 Program Managers from the CMS team have been working on SPS for some time now. At PDC they only showed about that many CMS features in SPS (again OFF313), all for producing public-facing web sites (the traditional domain of CMS). Will SPS 2 simply be a re-architected CMS? Not likely. Will "SPS for Intranets" and "SPS for CMS" be separate SKUs? It's possible, depending on how significant the features are that they're holding back.

There's also a lot from Groove that could fill SharePoint's gaps in serving mobile workers and remote offices. Publicly Microsoft seems committed to improving Groove (evidenced by OFF303). So which product is Ray Ozzie designing these days, Groove vNext, SPS vNext, WSS v4, or something else entirely? I have no idea. If it were up to me, it would be WSS v4 with a few cycles on migrating Groove users there. Could those features be in SPS vNext? If ready in time, that would certainly make a case for two SKUs (see last paragraph).

Of course by TechEd 2006 all these guesses will be completely outdated by something I've underestimated the importance of, but hey, the cough medicine is kicking in and it's fun to make pretend.

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