It hasn’t been confirmed or -- more importantly -- denied, but according to reports across the web, Microsoft is looking to release its new range of Office 15 products, which includes the next version of SharePoint -- codenamed SharePoint Server 15 -- along with its other Office servers and an upgraded version of Office 365, by the end of this year.

Anyone that follows the information management industry will be used to the dozens of unsubstantiated reports that circulate on the Web, but never go any further, so given the nebulous nature of this particular report it would be easy to dismiss it.

Whether you call it SharePoint 15 or SharePoint 2013, you know it is coming sometime this year. What's the point the of the November SharePoint conference if it's not?

SharePoint 15 in 2012

In this case, the rumors come from two different, and reputable, sources that say they been told by independent sources that tend to be quite reliable -- Mary-Jo Foley of ZDNet, and Bjorn Furuknap, a solutions architect that has made a reputation for himself as a SharePoint instructor, and investigating developments around it.

According to Foley, Furuknap says that he has been told that Microsoft is targeting the end of the year for the new releases and that SharePoint 15 will come with significant new features. Foley says she too has run the list of features past someone in the Office 15 Technology Adoption Program and that that person confirmed the same features. Those features include:

  • A new SharePoint Apps Marketplace
  • The SharePoint apps will support multi-tenant installations
  • SharePoint 15 is to get a new education module to compete in the burgeoning education market.

Foley also says that both Exchange and SharePoint servers will come with built-information rights management and document protection functionality.

The App Marketplace will be a welcome addition and timely too given that it was originally promised with SharePoint 2010 and although the current Gallery contains a single site template, it has nothing like the functionality that both Foley and Furuknap believe is there. With a number of other content management and social software vendors offering their own app marketplaces, it's about time Microsoft fulfilled its own promise.

Furuknap also says that the new educational functionality may come as an add-on, or base server functionality itself. Still a lot to be cleared up on this, but every bit helps.

Office 15 Tech Preview is On

The Technical Preview for Office 15, which includes SharePoint is officially on. It's happening with select customers and partners, so the details are very hush, hush.

You can also download the Technical Preview Interoperability Specification (API) and have a look through it. It's specific to topics where other Office apps call SharePoint types and members, and if you aren't technical, it's not going to tell you much.

Bring It All On - At Once

PJ Hough, CVP of Development, Microsoft Office Division, did say this:

With Office 15, for the first time ever, we will simultaneously update our cloud services, servers, and mobile and PC clients for Office, Office 365, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project, and Visio.

Now that's a pretty big undertaking, one that should give us an idea of how Microsoft is very committed to both the cloud and its on premises products, but also how we might see the two better integrated.

Looking forward to the Public Beta, expected sometime this summer, maybe sooner if we are lucky, and sharing more details on what you can expect from SharePoint and other Office products.

Until then...