SharePoint is more popular than ever, and the 2013 version is getting more and more attention as we discover exactly what Microsoft has envisioned for the Swiss army knife like content management tool.

Hangout with the SharePoint Pros

CMSWire hosted a recent Google Hangout with four SharePoint professionals that each have rather extensive SharePoint experience. Whether a SharePoint novice or certified power user, the session touched on the latest updates in SharePoint 2013, and also some broader Microsoft themed postulations that are worthy of further exploration.

As to what exactly is new in SharePoint 2013, the updated interface and general face lift improvements are noteworthy, Jennifer Mason, a SharePoint consultant at Rackspace hosting said. This includes being able to use SharePoint across multiple browsers and drag and drop content.

"Everyday users seem to just find it easier to use," she said

"It acts more like Word, in some ways it seems. The tool set is coming closer to what they use everyday."

On the social front, SP 2013 now has at least minimally acceptable functionality, Chris McNulty, CTO of SharePoint at Dell Software said. For apps, the APIs have been updated, and that has moved things forward on app development, Peter Senescu, president at MetaVis Technologies said.

Mobile SharePoint

Of course, one of the main topics of interest is SharePoint's mobile capabilities, long a sore subject in the SharePoint world.

"People are looking for a more complete mobile experience out of the box," Christian Buckley, director of product evangelism at Axceler/Metalogix said.

There are Microsoft partners in place to help companies with mobile SharePoint features, but we're not yet to the point where Microsoft has lots of mobile features in place natively, he said. In these kinds of situations, it's critical organizations have a clear idea of what exactly they are trying to do so they can find the partners to best help them, McNulty added.

That means added costs, of course, but plenty of companies are perfectly willing to spend the money to make it work, Mason said. But, there are also lots of companies who simply won't spend money on that yet, she added. Still, Microsoft should really build out full support at least for the Surface tablet and iPad, Senescu said. At the same time, vendors should be encouraged to produce different solutions for various use cases, he said.

At least now there is channelization in SP 2013, McNulty said. In order to generate a mobile SharePoint site in previous versions, people would have to manually go in and change the URL, a much too technical task for many users, he said. Microsoft will no doubt be paying more attention to this issue over the next year or two, but it will likely continue to strongly rely on third parties, Mason said.

Yammer Integration

The other main development with SP 2013 is the ongoing Yammer integration, an even more mysterious situation given how little Microsoft has shared about its plans.

"Yammer will pay off in a year or so," McNulty said.

The integration will just be better by then, he added. Yammer is a good point of entry for many companies, Mason added, especially for those who find they don't need the more structured SharePoint environment. It's about how to transition from a Yammer setup to something more formal, and deciding exactly when to switch, she said. On this point, the panel seemed very much in agreement.

"It's about structured collaboration versus unstructured collaboration," Buckley said.

"We'll see them blend in the next 6 to 12 months. The broader impact of Yammer is that Microsoft sees collaboration as fundamentally changing how it develops software."

The online first model/quick development model is also changing how Microsoft approaches development, he added. 

Because there's still so much of a focus on documents in many SharePoint deployments, its still about managing that experience, McNulty said. Whether something happens in a document or in a conversation stream will matter less and less over time. What people are going to want to be able to reference is where that decision was made, and being able to find that will be the most important thing, he said.

Search

Search has been upgraded in SP 2013, and it's now very useful, the panel agreed.

"It used to be the last place people went to find things, and now it's one of the first," Mason said.

People often use search extensively in their work and in their social lives, so they often expect it to just work, she added.

We had a couple of other questions for our panelists, but unfortunately, the Internet ate them. We had a bit of a technical problem with our Hangouts recording, so the below video cuts off with about 15 minutes or so missing from the session. Do feel free, however, to check out the discussion, and tell us in the comments if your team is feeling gung ho about 2013 and why or why not.