Woo hoo! The wait is over: SharePoint 2016 beta is here. 

SharePoint MVP and CMSWire contributor Todd Klindt promised he'd "throw out a blog post and probably a tweet — maybe a smoke signal" as soon as Microsoft made the big announcement.

And today he tweeted:

(He also said he might put a sign in his yard, so if anyone is driving through Ames, Iowa and catches a glimpse of that — well, it goes without saying that we'd like you to share a snapshot.)

Is It Here Yet?

Suffice to say a lot of people have been (im)patiently waiting for this SharePoint beta — a fact Microsoft's Bill Baer, senior technical product manager for the SharePoint team, alluded to in a blog post today announcing the availability of both SharePoint Server 2016 IT Preview and the new cloud hybrid search preview for SharePoint Server 2013 and 2016.

"We’ve been working hard to get this out to you, and we know you’ve been waiting patiently since we announced that it was coming," he wrote.

Microsoft announced the beta on the first day of SPTechCon, a four-day SharePoint technology conference in Boston.

Baer noted that users will not able to upgrade from SharePoint Server 2016 IT Preview to the release to manufacturing (RTM) version next year. He also warned against installing the preview in production environments.

Warnings aside, Microsoft is apparently satisfied that it has a stable release — and wants everyone to take a look and offer feedback.

Baer said Microsoft has been "paying close attention to trends in content management, team collaboration, user experiences across devices, and how the cloud can be blended into existing on-premises scenarios in new and compelling ways."

He noted the preview contains a glimpse of a "select set of new infrastructure investments" that will help define the scope, scale and reliability of SharePoint Server 2016." Microsoft will "continue to add new capabilities that represent our investments in audience and workload capabilities."

And he added that users would see similarities between SharePoint Server 2016 and SharePoint Online, since Microsoft is building them on the same core platform.

Expect a user experience that is "intuitive, yet familiar" and understand what Microsoft is sharing "is just a fraction of what will be in SharePoint 2016."

Baer added that management of the new version will be simplified, enabling users to scale easily and to build new apps for both the on-premises and the cloud-based version.

So Much Under the Hood

Baer said SharePoint 2016 was "designed with mobile in mind," and includes the latest technologies and standards for mobile push and content sync.

It also comes with a number of security features, such as enterprise-wide document hold capabilities that can be applied to content  in both SharePoint and OneDrive for Business. Polices can also be set up to delete documents after a fixed time.

Users can also access their apps from the navigation bar, upload files up to 10GB and more easily share sites and files, Microsoft claims.

Baer also talked about the Cloud Search service application, which gives you the ability to marry your on-premises search server application to the cloud. The unified index will enable authenticated users to search from SharePoint Online and return results that include items from both on-premises content and online content without the need for implementing query federation.

“With this new hybrid configuration, this same experience will also allow customers to leverage the power of Office Graph to discover relevant information in Delve—regardless of where information is stored,” Baer wrote.

Microsoft posted a list of "new and improved" features. And SharePoint aficionados seemed impressed.

And they were quick to share their enthusiasm.

But not everyone was drinking the Kool-Aid. And some were already pointing out what users lose in the new version.

Lots More to Share

We'll have lots more to share about SharePoint in the weeks to come. For now, you may want to review some interesting posts: