Finally. Microsoft has come forward with some news about the next version of SharePoint.

First, we have an official name: SharePoint 2010. Not overly innovative, but at least we can all agree on what to call it now.

A New Unified Communications Family

The news comes as a sidebar to the public beta release of Exchange Server 2010, part of the new unified communications family. Exchange Server 2010 is the first of the new Office-related products to be available for public beta. The others that will follow include MS Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, Visio 2010 and MS Project 2010.

What's so special about this next wave -- or version -- of Office related products? Microsoft says they are the first to be built "from the ground up" to serve both the on premise and software as a service crowd.

The new versions have been built with several key features:

Along with the renewed focus on features like those above, a new licensing and delivery model will be introduced along with improvements to the management and deployment of solutions for IT and a strong development platform for developers.

And the Timeline Is...

Exchange Server 2010 is expected to arrive in the second half of this year. That's the first of the new product versions to go public. All the others, including SharePoint 2010 should be available for technical preview sometime in the third quarter, with an expected public release in the first half of 2010 -- hence the name. 

While you anxiously await the technical preview, have a look at what might be in the next version of SharePoint (just ignore the name we called it).