On March 14, a.k.a. Pi Day, Microsoft announced the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) version of SharePoint 2016. While the announcement has made the rounds, the community continues to wait for the virtual launch event and General Availability (GA), scheduled for May 4.  

For those unclear on the difference: RTM is the complete product and allows us geeks to start fully installing on servers preparing for the move to production, whereas GA is when the full licensing is available. 

A Trip Down SharePoint Memory Lane

Remember back in the days of old when these announcements were made in conjunction with a SharePoint conference? Well, that conference no longer exists independently, and the focus on the features within the platform is fading. With SharePoint 2016 it feels like the focus is on laying the foundation for the future. 

Let's take a walk down memory lane and look at how the messaging has changed over the last eight years (I won't bore you with pre-SharePoint 2007) and what it means to the future of the product.

SharePoint 2007, aka MOSS

SharePoint 2007
SharePoint 2007, better known as MOSS (Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007), was built from within the Office team and the combination of SharePoint Portal Services with the Microsoft Content Management Server.

This version debuted the infamous "wheel" of features, demonstrating the capabilities of the new SharePoint platform. With the enhanced capabilities SharePoint began its rise as the fastest growing product in Microsoft history. 

SharePoint 2010 - What's a Composite?

SharePoint 2010
Now we move to the marketing of SharePoint 2010, and we realize that the "Office Server" is missing, the wheel has changed, and the vernacular of the day has been used in an attempt to better describe the different services that SharePoint provides. 

But really, what is a composite or an insight? At the SharePoint conference Microsoft had definitely been listening, and added features that Administrators had been requesting. One simple example was the ability to look-up an individuals permissions from the user interface. 

SharePoint 2013 - and Hello There Office 365

Office 365
Microsoft unveiled messaging at the 2012 conference, now dubbed the Office 365 conference, that covered both the on-premises server and the brand-new Office 365 cloud solutions. 

I don't envy the marketing team for that transition, but tried to capture the "modern" design feeling with a little (non-circular) graphic of my own. With this release, Microsoft started the move from features to actions: organize, share, discover, build and manage. 

Here the Microsoft team highlighted the core capabilities and then talked about extensibility. And now was when the confusion surrounding the life of on-premises started. SharePoint 2013 was not dramatically different than 2010 and the cloud was very daunting with no proven track record of success.

And In the Here and Now

Now we come to SharePoint Server 2016. Microsoft got rid of the wheels and cute icons for this version, focusing instead on three key areas: Infrastructure, Experiences and Compliance. This change in focus away from features and on major business concerns demonstrates that Microsoft has been listening to the community. 

The new positioning statement, embedded within the SharePoint Server marketing video, sets the tone for SharePoint's future:

"Sharepoint was designed to grow with you. With continuous updates you'll stay ahead with the most comprehensive secure version ever. SharePoint 2016 a new way to think about SharePoint, a new way to experience innovation."

While SharePoint Server 2016 does not on the surface look like a new product, and Microsoft continues its push for organizations to utilize hybrid functionality, the marketing positioning reflects the possibility of how this infrastructure can more rapidly adapt to today's IT reality than ever before. We can expect to see businesses continue to build intranets on SharePoint Server 2016, militaries using on-premises to support mission-critical initiatives, and highly regulated industries testing hybrid functionalities that will only become easier to secure and manage.