Microsoft is significantly delaying the release of SharePoint Server 2016 — creating what one industry expert described as a "ripple of sadness" across the Internet.

In a blog post yesterday, Microsoft revealed a new delivery plan for the next on-premises version of Sharepoint. It confirmed that SharePoint Server 2016 will become generally available in the second quarter of 2016, with a public beta in the fourth quarter this year. That is about a year later than originally expected.

Facing Reality

Despite the delay, Seth Patton, senior director of product management for the SharePoint team, stressed Microsoft remains committed to SharePoint on-premises, possibly even beyond the SharePoint 2016 edition.

"We want to confirm our commitment to delivering on-premises releases of SharePoint for the foreseeable future. We envision a future where we will continue to have customers who choose a combination of on-premises, cloud and hybrid deployments for many years to come,” he wrote.

The news triggered a "ripple of sadness" across the Internet, said Todd Klindt, a SharePoint MVP and SharePoint consultant at Rackspace. "Most of the SharePoint-loving world was expecting — hoping — for SharePoint 2016 to drop this year. I know I was expecting it," he told CMSWire today.

When he heard about the delayed release, Klindt said he was disappointed.

"I want the new and shiny and I wanted it now! But I used to work for a software company. I know how these release cycles go. I’m empathetic to the herculean task that’s ahead of Microsoft in making SharePoint 2016 worthy of its reputation.

"If Microsoft was going to have to release a buggy or substandard product to get it out this year, then I’m glad it's waiting. I’m impatient and antsy, but I’m glad, too."

But Chris McNulty, Chief Technology Officer at HiSoftware, a Cryptzone company, took the delay in stride, noting:

In the cloud, we ship features when ready. But for on-premises, you can’t disrupt operations with continuous releases. So Microsoft needs to maximize the value delivered for the on-premises disruption. SharePoint upgrades are more complex than Exchange/Lync updates already. 

I’m eager to be able to apply what Microsoft has learned about operating and scaling SharePoint in the cloud to on-premises farms. But I expect moving to harvest those 2016 investments to be a slightly larger hurdle than the move to 2013, so getting the most out of that move is key. Quality matters more than timing: Maximum pleasure in exchange for a modest pain."

There seemed to be a lot of unanswered questions about the reason for the delay, as Benjamin Niaulin, a SharePoint MVP at Sharegate and GSoft, noted in a blog post. Why was the release pushed back?

"To be honest, I don’t think we will ever know for sure, or at least it wasn’t mentioned in the blog post. It could be that SharePoint 2016 simply wasn’t ready yet, but it could also be due to changes happening on Office 365," he wrote.

Slow Migration

The new schedule also appears to confirm anecdotal evidence that the move to SharePoint Online is going slower than Microsoft had hoped.

Technology strategist David Lavenda, vice president for product strategy at harmon.ie, has written extensively of the challenges around SharePoint and Office 365 for CMSWire. He called the news confirmation of what many already suspected about the slower than expected cloud adoption.

“The need for security, customizations and concerns about privacy and levels of service will keep on-premises software around for quite some time. The difficulty in reconciling all the great things that are available in the cloud with the huge installed base of on-premises customers is becoming apparent," he continued.

“Loyal on-premises customers will demand to get the same features that cloud customers are getting, so it makes sense to roll these features into another major on-premises release."

Worth the Wait?

While Microsoft has talked to some extent about what it hopes to deliver with SharePoint 2016, Patton added a little bit more into the mix in yesterday's blog. He said the 2016 edition will provide improved user experiences, a cloud inspired infrastructure, and better compliance and reporting.

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User Experiences

SharePoint Server 2016 will be optimized for touch screens across devices and screen sizes and will make file storage and document collaboration easier, Microsoft claims. It will also bring some of the Office 365 upgrades to the on-premises and hybrid SharePoint editions, including the ability to discover contextually relevant information and data stored both on-premises and in cloud environments powered by Office Graph and Delve. There will also be tighter integration between Yammer and Exchange.

Cloud-Inspired Infrastructure

Expect an improved, simplified user experience and integration with products such as the next release of Windows Server, the next generation of SQL Server and Exchange Server 2016. Microsoft is also developing a standardized set of APIs and experiences that span on-premises and the cloud.

Compliance and Reporting

Without going into detail, Patton writes that there will be new Data Loss Prevention (DLP) functionality designed to protect sensitive information as well as new compliance tools that will span the on-premises server with Office 365.

Microsoft hasn’t explained why it is pushing back the release date. However, it is still expected to offer a sneak-peek at an early version at Microsoft Ignite next month.

How much the final product that finally emerges next year will reflect this beta version is anyone’s guess. The only thing clear is that Microsoft doesn't plan to release anything until it is good and ready to do so.