How SharePoint can learn from Windows 8

During the course of 2011 Windows8 was presented to the. Could the current proposed – ‘Windows 8’ – provide the basis for major future changes to Microsoft SharePoint?
SharePoint has been an enormous success for Microsoft in recent years.
Let us take a speculative look at three areas where SharePoint can learn from Windows 8.

The User Interface
One of the features proposed for Windows 8 which has tremendous potential for SharePoint is the ‘Metro’ interface: a user-friendly, touch-screen and highly visual navigation system for which special ‘Metro apps’ can be produced to enable specific user activities. The Metro interface is probably one of the biggest areas of change in Windows 8. Optimized for touch screens, this new way of using Windows is clearly inspired by the “Windows Phone 7” user interface. “Metro apps” will be a new breed of Windows application, sitting separately from things like Office and Photoshop, and developed using what are seen as more traditionally web-based technologies like HTML5 and JavaScript. Users will interact with them in a much more visual manner, even on non-touch devices, and Microsoft is assuming many users will make the permanent shift away from the current Windows desktop interface.
Implications for SharePoint are twofold. Firstly, Metro apps aren’t a huge logical leap on from web parts. Could Metro apps form the basis of a “next generation” web part? Could approved Metro apps even run natively on SharePoint? Certainly this could give Microsoft a head start if it did decide to create a SharePoint specific store. Changing the underlying architecture of web parts to something more web based would open up the developer base to a wider audience and bring the technology inline with the majority of other similar widget platforms available.
Secondly, the Metro interface (the idea of functional hubs, full bleed canvases and the typeface) is very likely to inspire the general direction of the SharePoint 2012 interface. How much of this is practical to implement is currently only known to Microsoft. SharePoint will surely retain its current content management system elements, elements that many users customize to provide the exact look and feel they require. On the other hand, the out of the box site templates are starting to feel tired and the administrative interfaces didn’t really change after the 2007 release. Whatever the outcome, there is certainly an appealing argument for Windows 8, Windows Phone 7 and SharePoint 2012 to share a common look and feel.

The “Windows Store”
Could the launch of the Windows store for Metro apps and other software influence the similar launch of a new SharePoint store where web parts and third party add-ons could be purchased?
The Windows store is set to be the key digital distribution platform for Windows, likely offering both Metro apps and more traditional Windows software. Seen as a direct response to the Apple Mac software store, and of course inspired by the original iPhone app store, this feature will probably change forever how Windows software is purchased and maintained.
The next version of SharePoint seems almost certain to feature a similar offering. Two elements of the current SharePoint experience make this likely. Firstly, SharePoint is extremely well supported by third party suppliers and developers. A whole host of add-ins and tools are already available for purchase, and it would make perfect sense to centralize the distribution of this software. Secondly, one of SharePoint’s key features, web parts, makes almost the perfect store item. Web parts are generally small pieces of software, tightly focused in functionality and low in price. They are very much the app of the SharePoint world.

The “Ribbon” Interface
A respected commentator envisages a greater use of the Microsoft ribbon in any new SharePoint version; in the same way that the ribbon is expected to be integral to Windows 8…
Yes, the Microsoft ribbon can already be found in SharePoint 2010, but SharePoint 2012 will surely see it used to a much greater extent. The often controversial ribbon, which debuted as part of Office 2007, was used sparingly in Windows 7 but forms a more integral part of Windows 8. It is now integral to the operating system as part of Windows Explorer. Whilst this hasn’t been met with universal acclaim by those that have used it, Microsoft looks unlikely to backtrack.
As a result I expect to see the ribbon used much more extensively in the next version of SharePoint. Settings screens and central administration are obvious candidates for an overhaul. It would also seem likely that its use for list, and in particular web part, configuration will see an improvement.

Thank you for attention and you are always welcome with your comments!

Elvira Golyak

Business Development Manager