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With all the coverage of last week's Windows 7 launch, it was easy to overlook news of the forthcoming release of SharePoint Server 2010, the next edition of Redmond's collaboration platform. A public beta is expected next month, which according a speech given by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer last week will demonstrate significant new functionality. What Ballmer didn't directly confirm in his speech was recent speculation that that by June of 2010, the platform will no longer ride along with Windows Server products, but instead be offered stand-alone.

Helping to fuel the speculation about platform status of SharePoint 2010 was talk of a set of new cloud-based APIs; support for business connectivity services, permitting developers to connect application or Web-service data with SharePoint or Office client apps; REST, LINQ and ATOM support; an improved SharePoint designer; social tagging and "backstage" life-cycle management links with Office; and integration with Visual Studio 2010. Also new will be hosted and on-premise versions.

Speaking at Microsoft's SharePoint conference in Las Vegas on Oct. 19, Ballmer himself referred to the tool as a platform, implying that it had evolved hast its previous status as merely a server application. "SharePoint 2010 will transform efficiency by connecting workers across a single collaboration platform for business.” The update is scheduled for general availability "in the first half of 2010," which typically means June.

The new tools also reportedly will simplify Website creation with native support for video, audio and Silverlight, as well as content management and adherence to WCAG 2.0. SharePoint Online also will support Excel and InfoPath Forms Services, "which make it simple to use, share, secure and manage interactive forms across an organization," the company said.

Last but not least, SharePoint 2010 adds everyone's favorite UI land-grab: the ribbon.

Edited by Dani: Formatting fixed

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