Janus has already provided a first take on Redmond releasing another service pack for the Office products. Of course, this SP is not a huge surprise. Microsoft releases services packs every six months to a year, with various "patches" released more frequently. However, what is somewhat unique is what's been coming in these service packs.
The first surprise was the engineering update from June/July of this year. Microsoft did something nearly unheard of: it updated an existing product, between major releases, with new functionality from related products. Namely, SharePoint was updated to include significant changes to interfaces and functionality found in Search Server.
Coming shortly after the engineering update, Microsoft released a few more goodies. In August, a CodePlex-based project, Faceted Search, was more "officially" announced after a recent update to the code. This project is particularly significant in a number of ways:
- SharePoint didn't contain the feature previously
- Microsoft officially released the code on its open source site (CodePlex)
- It's being supported by Microsoft (primarily Microsoft Consulting Services) and non-Microsoft folks alike
To add to regular service pack updates and open source code, Microsoft has been making efforts to enable SharePoint to support new technologies. SharePoint now supports Visual Studio 2008, SQL 2008 and Windows Server 2008. While Microsoft has, in past, updated "current" products to enable support for "new" products, they seem to be paying a lot more attention to the Office products -- specifically SharePoint -- than most. This is especially true if you look at the relatively abysmal support they gave the previous version of SharePoint for Visual Studio 2005 (or Content Management Server for that matter).
Beyond all of the software-based updates, you can find a whole host of upcoming conferences either featuring SharePoint or including significant SharePoint content. The most obvious examples are TechEd 2008 during the summer, but just as significant is Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference (PDC). Both of these conferences are largely aimed at technical folks. However, you can also have conferences like IIR's Enterprise-3 conference in Las Vegas..
All-in-all, it seems as if Microsoft has caught the SharePoint bug like the rest of us (no pun intended). As we discussed in the SharePoint Report 2008, there's clearly more they can do, like providing better documentation for CAML. That said, they are doing more than they have historically and that can only help the thousands of people implementing the tool.