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Microsoft unveils big SharePoint updates with mobile app

Microsoft announced several SharePoint updates, including a mobile app for iOS and Android, making the product more modern and compatible with the cloud-based Office 365.

Microsoft has given its legacy team collaboration system SharePoint the most dramatic makeover in 15 years, creating a mobile-friendly product that is compatible with Yammer, Skype for Business and other cloud-based Office 365 tools.

Microsoft announced the SharePoint updates last week at an event in San Francisco. The overhaul is the first since Microsoft released the software in 2001.

One of the most notable new features is a mobile application for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. The mobile app will be available by the end of June. Until this app comes to market, a user can access SharePoint from a Web browser.

Microsoft also redesigned the SharePoint user interface, leaving behind the dated feel users often complained about. SharePoint users often griped of the "legacy feel" of the product, saying there were "hoops to jump through," said Peter O'Kelly, an independent analyst who follows the collaboration industry.

SharePoint has traditionally been used for document collaboration and storage and is the foundation of many company intranets. The product is available as part of an Office 365 subscription or as on-premise software.

The new SharePoint will make it easier to see files that other people are working on and offer a hybrid search function that scans both the cloud and on-premises versions of the product.

SharePoint gets new analytics

Some additional, but less noteworthy, SharePoint updates to be released later in the year include: new document analytics capabilities in OneDrive, integration of SharePoint and Office 365 Groups, and the ability to bring your own encryption keys.

O'Kelly called the SharePoint updates the "most significant" since the product's release.

"SharePoint was getting to that point where some people were wondering if it was a brand that Microsoft should leave behind," O'Kelly said. "For each of these updates, Microsoft has said we're modernizing it and addressing customer feedback."

According to Microsoft, more than 200,000 enterprises use SharePoint. Customers include the Coles supermarket chain, the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton and clothing retailer Marks & Spencer.

Microsoft has been funneling resources towards making Office 365 a platform that boasts all tools necessary for enterprises, O’Kelly said.

For example, Microsoft released a set of reporting capabilities for its Office 365 suite last month that are designed to help subscribers increase productivity at work. Also last month, Microsoft unveiled its personnel monitoring tool, called Delve Analytics, which gives an employee a usage chart on various work tools, including time spent on both email and in meetings. Other recent moves to bolster the Office 365 suite involve updates to specific tools, such as releasing the Skype for Business Mac preview, and opening the FastTrack migration service to smaller businesses with at least 50 seats.

This overdue overhaul of SharePoint is part of Microsoft's plan to fine-tune Office 365, according to Alan Lepofsky, an analyst at Constellation Research, based in Silicon Valley.

"This is significant because it will allow SharePoint to become more of a seamlessly integrated part of the Office 365 family," Lepofsky said. "This will lead to better experiences for people using it, especially on mobile."

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