Let’s face it, mobility should absolutely be on your radar if you’re an IT executive or decision maker. Whether your firm has a substantial investment in mobile devices for the workforce or you’ve adopted modern BYOD policies, you cannot ignore the impact of mobile devices on how we do business. Microsoft knows this, and has been hard at work to upgrade SharePoint’s plumbing in relation to the mobile experience.
The below list comprises some of the notable, new features Microsoft has developed for SharePoint 2013. This isn’t really a list for any particular type of user; it’s just a general overview of how Microsoft is adding to the feature set. The list is ranked based on my opinion of relevance and value to the organization.
1. Contemporary View
The first feature that will grab everyone’s eye is the new HTML5 view that is best suited for mobile devices. Think of it as a mix between the boring and lifeless classic view from SharePoint 2010 and the new metro look and feel for SharePoint 2013.
What you get is a clean and highly compatible UI that should work on just about any device supporting HTML5. A new site feature handles whether or not mobile devices are automatically routed to this view or not, so it couldn’t be easier to deploy for IT pros.
2. Device Channels
Here’s a gem for site managers and devs. You now have the ability to render content for the appropriate device without having to duplicate the content itself. This functionality lets you serve up the same content with multiple master pages, page layouts and style sheets. If all goes well, you should be able to support most of the mobile devices in your firm with a lot less overhead than with 2010. The current list of compatible mobile browsers is available on the Microsoft Technet site.
3. Better Office Web Apps UX with Touch Support on Tablets
Working with Office Web Apps on a mobile device in SharePoint 2010 left a lot to be desired. Editing documents was not really possible on many devices and browsers (without a hack), which left users with the ability to basically view only.
Flash forward three years, and the dominance of information workers working on the go has caused Microsoft to revamp their offerings. Unless you were living under a rock, you should already be familiar with the big push Microsoft is making for the new web-based versions of the popular Office apps.
The new UI sports bigger buttons, gesture support, context menus (rejoice!), support for touch, mouse and keyboard input, and many more cool features. I don’t expect the experience to be any different coupled with SharePoint 2013, so you can test drive the experience now with SkyDrive or Office 365.
4. Push Notification Support for Mobile Applications
Push notifications have become staple features for mobile applications and the devices that support them, so it’s not shocking that Microsoft is now supporting this with SharePoint 2013. This feature requires adoption though from 3rd party developers or internal custom development.
The end result is that your device will be able to receive notifications from SharePoint lists and sites. For instance, a new document is uploaded in a library that you’re following, and the notification service sends your device a notification. Simple, yet necessary for today’s mobile devices
5. Support for PerformancePoint & Excel Services Reports on iPads
This is probably the least impressive new feature, because Microsoft only suggests that “certain kinds” of reports will be viewable on mobile devices. Since we don’t have an RTM build yet, I can’t say really what those reports will be. To further limit the exposure of this new feature, it’s apparently only available for iOS 5 iPads. To even further confuse you, Microsoft says on another page that “PerformancePoint dashboards can now be viewed and interacted with on iPad devices using the Safari web browser.” That seems to suggest that all PP dashboards can be viewed in Safari.
Regardless of what functionality actually makes it to RTM and beyond, it’s nice to know that we should be able to start interacting with dashboards, scorecards and maybe even some Excel BI/PowerPivot data on our iPads.
6. Geolocation Field Type Support
Although this is another “under the hood” feature of SharePoint 2013, it should have an interesting effect on using SharePoint with mobile devices in the future. Microsoft has added native support to geolocation fields which can be exposed through Visual Studio. By adding a geolocation field to a list, you can embed coordinates, which can then be rendered with Bing Maps. The obvious benefit here is the ability to use your GPS-enabled mobile device to plot your location in a SharePoint list.
Editor's Note: To read more of Mike Ferrara's thoughts on SharePoint 2013: