Keeping abreast of SharePoint Server 2010, Visual Studio 2010 and Windows Azure Services Platform

Well, it's official. The SharePoint Product Group (PG) just released the news on their MSDN blog (, about the formal naming of "SharePoint Server 2010". I'm very excited about the news, because it drops the "MOSS" acronym, and represents the product in-line with it's true incarnation as a Server platform. Yes, it is still part of the Office arsenal, but you will notice we are positioning the "Office" brand name moving forward with the Office client applications known and loved by our customers.

I'm also elated by the recent announcement of SharePoint Designer 2007 being free to our customers, a trend I have heard will continue with SharePoint Designer 2010, but don't quote me on that.  I can say that based on my internal use of early builds of Office "14" (our codename to date), especially SPD, there's a lot of welcome additions and tweaks to the platform that many developers and end-users will be truly elated with.  Although I can't discuss particulars just yet, I can tell you there are huge advances in social networking, workflow, core functionality and UI.  These are to name just a few, of at least 20 areas being improved, which will be headed out-the-door to a server near you.  Early builds of SPD that I have played with to date, have been "awe-inspiring" and unlike any predecessor. My only regret is I don't believe it will be backward compatible with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 sites.  However, the benefits of the new platform alone, will in my opinion sway many customers to actually pursue upgrades early-on, rather than later in the lifecycle.

 Some of the phenomenal growth of MOSS 2007 was met with a shortage of administrators and developers with hard-core expertise.  Many customers were left scrambling to find information on various parts of the platform, or worse-yet, doing things by trial and error.   I'm here to tell you we are very in-tune with this message from many customers.  Currently we're working hard on putting together volumes of guidance, walkthroughs, hands-on labs, and acceleration programs for our customers.  The goal is to ensure that these types of content will be available early-on.  Microsoft will be working hard on training our Partners & MVPs communities, and other professional developers, much earlier than our prior launches have done. 
 We are also expecting to do the same with Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, and I am currently involved in a internal project centering around that guidance. I'm also concurrently working on an internal project creating hands-on labs for SharePoint Server 2010.  These two projects, along with the training and work I have been doing in the Windows Azure space has kept me energized and has been completely exciting, despite the long hours.  One of the benefits of working for the world's greatest software company is being able to help create some of the world's best software.  Although, drinking from a firehose (in terms of all the new features) is an art-form.  :)
 Some great ways you can leverage your current skill-sets, is by staying abreast of these new feature areas earlier, as they are announced, rather than later.
 The amount of knowledge coming down the pike is formidable, and coupled with the momentum of Windows Seven that we are expecting, it will be far easier for most to have started learning early-on.
 I can share with you that just for me to read some of the new features, for example, of SharePoint Server 2010, in any mediocre detail, has taken me at least 30 straight hours.
 (No joke.)  Windows Azure (in the next iterative release) will probably have SDK changes that will take you about 5 hours, and Visual Studio 2010 another 10. Assuming you read at a fairly above-average rate like me, and understand everything right away, that's about 7 business days of straight reading.  (I kid you not, as I already have learned.)
 So where do you start?  First, keep up with the "features to be" as they are being announced on each team blog, and highlight those areas that will be most valuable to you.
 Second, download the CTP for Visual Studio 2010, the Windows Azure beta SDK, and start reading through those now!  You will be glad you did, and the productivity gain will far exceed this time commitment once you actually set out on the RTM's of these platforms.
 I'm creating a series of blog posts about the new features we'll be shipping in SharePoint Server 2010, and some for Visual Studio 2010. 
These posts will be published once I have the okay signal, as we get the CTP of SharePoint Server 2010 out the door. 
I am awaiting the Beta release of Visual Studio 2010 too, as the current CTP build does not have any of the new SharePoint tools that will be baked-in. 
(Please don't ask when these dates will be, as I truly am not in the position to reveal that information at this time).

 Stay tuned!