The future of dev in SharePoint (and Office 365)

Posted on 5/5/2016 @ 3:43 PM in #SharePoint by | Feedback | 2419 views

Yesterday, Microsoft ran a virtual event titled, “The Future of SharePoint”. Did you get the memo?

The interwebs have been flooded with blogposts about those, so I’m a bit late to the party expressing my opinions on this topic. Late to the party, but here I am (after some gestation).

1.    I am glad to see SharePoint back. A 3.2b$ business, Microsoft has made the right choice by not letting it languish. I wish I could say the same about the past 2-3 years.
2.    UX improvements – are welcome. But remember, they are subjective. What I like and works for me, may not work for you. Enterprises demand customizability. I really hope Microsoft will not try the “do not customize SharePoint” tagline anymore, since that will just not fly.
3.    Farm solutions are dead – this is old news. But reinforced now.

Now, for the part that the title of this blogpost is about. The Future of Dev (and developers) in SharePoint. Here are my thoughts.

Major disappointment: They need to give more attention to developers.

First of all, I am extremely disappointed to see the lack of coverage to the dev side of things in yesterday’s event. A 60 second mention, and a 18 minute video is all we got. Really? To add to the insult, one of their partner’s representative was a CIO who started his intro with “I don’t know anything about technology”. Well how is that for a confidence building statement. I mean, if you were selling potatoes, you’d want to know something about potatoes right? At a tech event, for a tech company, talking about a tech product, when you say “I know nothing about what I’m on the stage to talk about”. Wow!

Remember, every company lead by a businessy guy who despises technology has only gone down. And every company where the businessy guy is in love with technology has done well.

Microsoft is doing well under Satya. Microsoft sucked under Ballmer. Microsoft did great under Gates. Not saying Satya and Gates were only techies – they were smart businessmen in LOVE with technology.

Apple, did well under Jobs, sucked under John Scully, did great under Jobs again, and is going to suck under Tim Cook again (unless he wisens up). But Cook is managing Apple with operations and numbers – not with products people are going to love. Recently John Scully said Apple should make it’s roadmap transparent and not do any secrecy. Even wall street said that was the dumbest idea ever. (Note product roadmap != dev platforms).

Google, will continue to do amazing stuff as long as Sergey and Larry and Sundar Pichai are at the helm. Smart leaders, businessmen who also understand and love technology.

Elon Musk, loves technology. Tesla will always do well, so will SpaceX, so will SolarCity. Until Elon is at the helm because the guy literally sleeps at the end of the Model X assembly line and ensures each car is awesome. You don’t get that sort of passion if you don’t LOVE the very products you work and use.

Seriously, I question if the idiots who removed the start button actually used Windows for anything other than powerpoint. Dumbest idea since serving calamari at a bris.

Think deep, think far, can you think of one company that has done wonders, when the top guy despised technology? I sure can’t.

So my first reaction, seriously, lift your kimono, let the devs of the world see what you are working on. Be open, give it MORE coverage. Not a passing mention and a short youtube video. And don’t despise technology, and developers in your keynote of all things. Show some love, I know its in you.

The SharePoint Framework

Farm Solutions, Sandbox Solutions, App (add-in) model, and now this? Why should we trust you now Microsoft? Okay, what I saw yesterday was good! But it was not enough to make an opinion one way or another. Here is why,

  • They said “open source”, but so far the bits have been shared with on an extremely limited basis with around 15 people or so (I could be wrong about the # of people, but let’s say very few). And those 15, I doubt they have had a chance to look at it in depth either. This is not open source, this is controlled messaging. You want to see open source, look at the ASPNET team. Share the bits guys, let everyone dive in and give you feedback. Feedback will only make things better. Don’t control messaging, focus on making your products better.
  • What we saw yesterday was actually not very new. The SharePoint community outside of Microsoft was already pioneering on things like VSCode, Yeoman, Gulp, etc. So unless I totally missed the point, they are catching the tail of the revolution from behind. Nothing wrong with that, at least they are on the right track, or at least what looks like from a very limited view we got yesterday.
  • Speaking of limited view, there are a lot of unanswered questions Microsoft needs to answer .. before they get at least this dev’s stamp of approval (fwiw),
    • How is legacy stuff supported, is there a migration path? I hope they don’t just poo on the people who wrote SharePoint hosted apps and move on.
    • What about store/marketplace? Do they have a story for that?
    • What about Office add-ins – what we saw will this apply to that also? What is the reuse migration story? Please don’t say “leave it to PnP to figure out”
    • What about permissions for the apps/code we write – what is the story for that? The permission story while much improved in the v2 app model, but as far as the classic add-in (app) model is concerned was severely lacking.
    • If I am not running in an IFrame, how do we differentiate between app level trust, and user level trust – or is there a story for this? From what I saw yesterday, this is a major fine print that I am afraid nobody is questioning. Seriously guys, how can you not question such a major oversight?
    • What about enterprise level deployment, to both on-prem and O365 – where I want to manage custom code across site collections?
    • What about branding, are we not doing master pages anymore – so what is the guidance there? I hope it isn’t chrome control or something similar.
    • What about storage that your apps may need – is there an SPWeb, what is the upgrade story?
    • How does this new SharePoint Framework work with the “App model’ – v1 or v2, I and I mean the Office365 APIs, not the classic app model. Is there a multi-tenancy concept baked in? What is the story on granting access rights, how do you keep keys secure, am I required to write a web api behind the scenes? How do I make that multi tenant. All technically do-able, but what are the key concepts here – or are they going to leave this sh~t to clean for the PnP people. Sidenote, PnP is awesome, it should have been part of the product. If you are not using or following PnP you are hugely missing out.
    • Will this work on-prem? What is the setup required? Can it work in a 100% cloud free environment?
    • The dev setup – will work offline apparently. But will it work on a Mac? Is the code reusable if I want to use it in Cordova/Electron?
    • When are they actually going to open source it – rather than just brag about being open source.
    • What is the Visual Studio dev story, not VSCode, but full VS.
    • .. more questions ..

If there is anything I have learnt, it is, the Office team is the king of fine prints. So while I like the general direction, I’ll say, I am holding back my final opinion until I understand every single fine print.

For now, I’d say, the Office 365 APIs and AzureAD based dev is still my recommended approach, which unfortunately does not apply to OnPrem. And yes JavaScript/TypeScript is still the king, until you need data hiding/encryption. I am watching the SharePoint Framework with peeled eyes, but with a somewhat muted cheerleader persona, and some gray hair.

Sound off but keep it civil:

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