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Wish List: Four keys for SURFACE and SharePoint Next

Microsoft made a big splash with the unveiling of their long-awaited Surface Tablet yesterday.  Never mind the interesting choice of branding (anyone familiar with the previous Microsoft Surface will be surprised they took the name from the world’s coolest cocktail table and applied it to a slate), the big question in our secret mountaintop command center here at Perficient’s World SharePoint HQ is no surprise: What can Microsoft do to ensure that SharePoint’s “Wave 15” release takes full advantage of the company’s slick new tablet?
With that question foremost in mind, and in the name of truth, justice and instant analysis, I’ve compiled a quick list of my take on the four most important qualities that Wave 15 SharePoint will need to support if it’s truly to play well with the new Surface Tablet.  Microsoft’s ability to provide answers to these needs—or not—will say a lot about the potential of their different product groups to work together.  If they want to compete in the consumer market and retain their enterprise dominance going forward, that’s a must.
By the way, these are not predictions, but really more of a wish list.  Once Wave 15 goes public, we’ll come back down the list and see how they did.
Without further ado, then, here it is: Four SharePoint 15 MUST HAVES to take full advantage of the Surface Tablet (and coincidentally, the iPad).
1. Command interaction needs to be TOUCH FRIENDLY.  Hey, Ribbon!  Yes, you.  Even with a sound information architecture and a simplified navigation scheme, navigating the basic commands of a SharePoint site from a tablet can be awkward.  Anyone who has seen me fat-fingering various apps on my NewsGator-for-iPad video blog knows how important it is to design user interfaces that will allow people to swipe, pinch, and expand with the touch of two fingers.  This is as true for SharePoint as it is for any other web CMS.  SharePoint 2010’s ribbon made this occasionally problematic, leaving slate users longing for the days of Clippy to swoop in and show us how it’s really done.  Let’s hope Microsoft got it right for the Surface.
2. RESPONSIVE design is key.  You can no longer assume that everyone hitting a SharePoint site is doing so from a supported, “first tier”, desktop browser.  Even three years ago that was a relatively safe gamble, but it’s no longer the case.  Among many other things, Surface is Microsoft’s public admission of that.  SharePoint 15 will need to be highly customizable from a UI perspective, allowing designers the freedom they’ve only had in limited amounts thus far, in order to take advantage of designs that adapt to the form factor of the platform used to access them.
3. An INTEGRATED USER EXPERIENCE is essential.  There’s been a lot of talk about the “Metro” UI of  Windows 8 and the Windows Phone.  It’s beautiful and slick and very appealing, although of course some have grumbled that it’s too much of a jump from the traditional Windows style.  To truly integrate into this brave new world, SharePoint Next needs to look and feel like an extension of Windows 8 and (less difficult by far) play well with its cousin, Office 15.
4. Do you think we could get an APP for that?  SharePoint apps on the iPad are extremely limited in scope.  If Microsoft takes an integrated user experience with Windows 8 seriously, and really wants SharePoint to be functional on their own Surface Tablet, they’ll publish and support their own official SharePoint app that does more than just expose basic lists and libraries.  Search?  Records Management?  BI Dashboards?  Social feeds?  There are plenty of possibilities here if only they’d seize the day and attack them—and Surface seems like the perfect opportunity.  And while they’re at it, would it be too much to ask to write one for iPad?  The Bing app is both gorgeous and functional, the Lync app is great, and the OneNote app is really helpful– you know they can do it if they just decide it’s worth doing.
It’s said we’ll be seeing a public beta for Wave 15 soon.  Once that happens, I’ll be looking for any sign of these features and reporting back on just how the beta measures up.

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Rich Wood

Rich Wood has been planning, designing and building enterprise solutions and internet sites with an emphasis on stellar user and customer experiences since 1997. Rich is a National Director for Content and Commerce Platform work in Perficient Digital. One of the rare breed of strategists to truly understand both the business needs of the customer and the platforms that serve them, he is a keen advocate for and accomplished speaker/writer on issues that surround that inflection point. His work has been published on CMSWire, Sitecore and Microsoft partner blogs, and his own LinkedIn page as well as our various blogs here at Perficient, and he has spoken at multiple major conferences including Microsoft's SharePoint Conference 2014. Married and a father of five, Rich enjoys spending time with his wife and family. He is a native of South Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a graduate of Marquette University.

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