By Dan Holme

Today at the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, Microsoft unveiled SharePoint 2010 with an impressive display of functionality and confidence. The SPC was shrouded in secrecy--attendees arrived not knowing, exactly, what they would see--and Microsoft's big gamble worked, as more than 7000 IT Pros, developers, users, and decision makers packed the Mandalay Bay hotel.

Moments ago, Tom Rizzo, Microsoft Senior Director of SharePoint, welcomed the enthusiastic crowd and the Non-Disclosure Agreement that's been hamstringing the MVP community was lifted, which means that you who are not attending the event will now benefit from a deluge of information about SharePoint 2010, which you'll be able to get your hands on in November when the public beta is released.

What impresses me more than anything (and there is a lot to be impressed with) is just how astronomical the growth of this product, and the "ecosystem" that surrounds it, has grown. This event is twice as big as last year's, and is actually bigger than some recent TechEds, even though this is dedicated to one product.

Walking into the Expo hall last night, I was overwhelmed with the depth, diversity, and maturity of the products that enhance the capabilities of the SharePoint platform. The size of the SharePoint wave, and what has happened in a mere three years, is mind-boggling.

Today, you will experience a tsunami of information about SharePoint 2010. There is no lack of surprises and announcements.

The list is so long that all I can do is list right now--hopefully this will help you spot the features and value propositions that are meaningful to your enterprise.

• The user interface and experience has been completely overhauled. "Peppy" and "impressive" are the right adjectives. The Ribbon has been injected into every aspect of SharePoint. AJAX enhances performance. The number of "clicks" it takes to do everything has been minimized throughout. And everything renders in compliant, accessible (WCAG 2.0) XHTML for browsers including IE, Firefox, Safari (good news for Macs) and mobile browsers.

• Shared services are no more, replaced by Service Applications that offer incredible flexibility and power. One of my favorite new service applications manages content types and taxonomy across sites, collections, web apps, and farms… yes! (Huge applause at the SPC)

• Social networking and knowledge networking are unleashed, for real this time. SharePoint 2010 fills the big gaps in 2007, with managed taxonomies and folksonomies, expertise finding, content rating, and commenting. I'm looking forward to sharing the technology and enterprise value of these technologies at SharePoint Connections.

• Search rocks. The performance, the user experience, the refiners, the relevance algorithms. Wow. That's just Standard search. The full integration of FAST search gives SharePoint best of class enterprise search capabilities. One particularly cool feature is previews of Word, Excel and PowerPoint search results thanks to integration with Office Web Apps.

• Records management is now integrated into every document library. Records (which, by definition, are official documents that are locked for changes) can live alongside normal documents, and now have a multistage lifecycle.

• SharePoint Workspace 2010, the successor to Groove, is a fully integrated, rich client that supports offline experience including InfoPath forms, and custom composite applications.

• Even more disconnected? SharePoint's mobile rendering is nice!

• Access and Visio Services join Excel Services which itself is significantly updated. Now, those mission critical Access applications and Visio diagrams can be hosted by SharePoint. And the Access applications are particularly feature rich.

• Office Web Applications (Excel, PowerPoint and Word) are part of SharePoint 2010, supporting simultaneous multiuser editing with shared visibility of real time changes.

• "Composites" are the new word for code-free and code-lite applications that integrate with and are supported by Office client applications, most importantly Access Services and an improved (and still free) SharePoint Designer. • Sites are now made up of pages in a library, and each can be edited inline, much like a wiki. Wow. This will make it so much easier for teams and users to really make their sites work for them.

• Theming and branding have been enhanced in some big ways

• Identity services extend the capability to authenticate users

• KPIs are available in all sites, so a team site can use KPIs to keep track of project status.

• Business Connectivity Services (BCS), the successor to the BCD, provides read and write access to back end services. Tom Rizzo did a simple but effective demonstration that hooked a SQL database into a SharePoint list into Outlook and provided both read and write capability, in about 1 minute. Read it, write it, take it offline. Cool!

• A lot of improvement for developers, starting with enhancements to Visual Studio, which completely integrates SharePoint, finally. Unfortunately, the improvements in Visual Studio 2010 cannot be used to develop on SharePoint 2007.

• You can now develop on a Windows 7 or Vista client running SharePoint (yes!)

• A beautiful deployment and debugging capability, featuring the Developer Dashboard which helps identify performance and code problems on each page

• Sandbox solutions allow custom code within a site collection, buffered from other sites, giving developers the ability to deploy solutions within the governance of the web application, including throttling to confine runaway applications

• Sandbox solutions, by the way, allows you to run custom code on SharePoint online!

• SharePoint Online (Microsoft's hosted "cloud-based" SharePoint offering) will gain all kinds of functionality, thanks to Sandbox Solutions. You'll get almost all of the end user capabilities of SharePoint 2010 in the cloud, as well.

• Two new products: SharePoint Server for Internet Sites (a standard and enterprise edition) and FAST Search Server 2010 for Internet Business, as well as SharePoint Online for Internet Sites. That's right, Microsoft SharePoint Online can now host your public internet-facing site!

• An improved text editor throughout for page editing, wikis, blogs, and content, with live preview, wiki syntax support, branding and slick image management

• Better features for standard and enterprise wikis (including syntax and templates) and blogs

• Expertise finding and a Silverlight-based organizational browser that leverages tagging and Outlook/Exchange integration, as well as Active Directory and improved user profiles. People search has some ooh-aah-wow features including phonetic and nickname synonyms for names.

• Streamlined access to content, profile, and feeds from areas of expertise and colleagues in MySites

• The Web Content Management story is solid, with better end user editing experience and improved manageability for IT, as well as rich media (e.g. videos) through a skinnable Silverlight media player and streaming right from the SharePoint store.

• SharePoint Foundation 2010 replaces Windows SharePoint Services, providing the core plumbing for SharePoint, including sites, deployment, and administration.

• Some of the governance issues that were too "top-down" (e.g. Records Management) and some that were too "bottom-up" (e.g. SharePoint Designer customizations) have been extended the other direction • Big improvements in scalability: no more 2000-item limits or other crazy, artificially low scalability problems. Million-plus item lists, and ten-million item libraries. That got one of the biggest rounds of applause at the SPC.

• A metadata-everywhere model, with taxonomy management and the ability to drive metadata into documents automatically (based on folder, for example) as well as a cool feature to automatically route documents into the right library

• A feature called document sets, which creates a collection of documents with shared metadata

• Insights--the latest iteration of Business Intelligence. I've complained in the past that BI in 2007 was a swimming pool without water (a quote from a fellow MVP). I'm happy to say that Microsoft has indeed added a lot of water to the pool. Interactions with PivotTables, sparklines, slicers--even the terms are cool :-) And of course, as expected, Performance Point Services integrates Performance Point into the Insights capability of SharePoint.

• An in-memory database server capability that can run on the server or the client to sift through data: SQL Server PowerPivot for Excel (the client) or for SharePoint (for the server). Together with Excel's newfound capability to rock with hundreds of millions of rows of data… yikes! I know this is quite a laundry list. It was tough to consolidate the multi-page SharePoint 2010 overview documentation and the content of the keynotes, but I hope you spot more than a few new features that will rock your world. It's hard to believe you won't!

We'll continue our exploration of What's New in SharePoint 2010 next week. Until then, you can follow me on Twitter @danholme, and I'll do my best to post blog entries to www.sharepointproconnections.com.