Booting to Sharepoint…coming soon from Microsoft

I have seen the future, and for all the ChromeOS haters & MS fan boys out there, it’s a truly frightening one.

To be fair, it was actually my bosses’ suggestion, but he’s since backed off his vision and I’ve been developing it in my mad, mad mind.

I think I’ve figured out Microsoft’s (evolving) strategy in the desktop/consumer & enterprise desktop space. Let’s face it; Windows 8 has been a flop, perhaps not to the level that Vista was, but really, it’s just not that great of an operating system. It’s not very intuitive as a desktop operating system and it’s only a little bit better as a tablet. It’s downright awful if you’re a virtualization admin, like I am, trying to hover your little mouse cursor in the bottom right corner to get to the bloody start screen.

This was taken on a Mac, but it could have been a ChromeBox or Linux machine or a damned Cell phone with an HTML 5 browser. Point is I was editing rich Excel docs in Sharepoint, entirely divorced from the underlying OS. Keep it going MS.
This was taken on a Mac, but it could have been a ChromeBox or Linux machine or a damned Cell phone with an HTML 5 browser. Point is I was editing rich Excel docs in Sharepoint, entirely divorced from the underlying OS. Keep it going MS.

Now 8.1 Enterprise, which I’m running the beta now, is a huge improvement, but where’s all this going? Is the hybrid tablet/desktop paradigm that Microsoft established last year really what they’re committed to for the next decade and beyond?

I seriously doubt it. Or, I should say, I think they’re going to borrow from ChromeOS and integrate Sharepoint right into the desktop.

Yeah, crazy right? But think about it. Here’s what Sharepoint 2013 -and it truly is a revolutionary product- offers Microsoft in the way of a desktop operating system:

  • Abstraction of the file/folder system, the paradigm Steve Jobs wanted to kill off so badly before he died. No longer would we have files & folders to worry about; everything will be contained, indexed, and walled off within Sharepoint sites. Your Skydrive is already like this, but I’m saying they’ll extend that and kill off C:UsersMy Docs and all the other shit we’ve had to deal with since Windows 95.
  • Individual & group sharing of documents, resources, and files by users themselves rather than heavy-handed, antique IT admins carefully crafting NTFS folder permissions and applying them to old-world style AD Groups. This will be fantastic and will kill DropBox creep in my enterprise, I hope. Put the onus on the users to secure & share their documents, with approval checkpoints & workflows in the loop, and you’ve effectively provided a good alternative to old-fashioned NTFS structures.
  • A touchable, App-friendly (yeah you can buy Sharepoint apps now too) UI, HTML 5 flavored, AJAX-friendly operating environment that truly works on all browsers, finally
  • Office Web Apps 2013: a truly kick-ass suite that plugs right into Sharepoint 2013, Lync 2013, and Exchange 2013. Users today are able to open/edit/save/send files within OWA without downloading /editing/saving/reattaching documents. What’s the next generation going to look like? Just think about that for a second. Attaching files, as a concept, is or will soon be on the tech endangered species list as Office Web Apps + Sharepoint becomes the primary computing interface for many standard office workers

Put it all together, and what do you have? A compelling web-based operating system.

Now I haven’t built out Exchange 2013 for my enterprise yet, but it’s the last piece of the puzzle. Once I do, what reason do I have to continue giving Windows desktops to standard, run of the mill users, folks who get by daily running Office, Outlook, Excel, and a bit of IE and don’t need the full functionality of a fat Office client? The only reason to even bother with a desktop OS at that point -as far as I can tell- is that Microsoft isn’t building a full web-capable Lync 2013 client. But they are bundling Skype into 8.1, so who the hell knows?

So yeah, picture that as your future and you begin to see where MS might be headed. Maybe 8.1 won’t be there, but mark my words. Windows 9 will not feature a desktop OS with a task bar, system tray, and start button -at least in the Pro or consumer versions- it will feature the “Metro” UI, with tiles populated by a consumer’s Windows account (as it is now) and/or seamlessly populated with content provided by their enterprise Sharepoint infrastructure.

It’s a new twist on MS’ ancient idea of an “Active Desktop,” but it’s actually quite compelling. Earlier this year, I filled out a corporate expense report on our Sharepoint 2013 dev environment entirely from my $250 Arm Chromebook. Microsoft is finally getting it, after decades of being stubborn.

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