Microsoft spills new portal features

Microsoft Corp. on Monday revealed more details on its SharePoint Portal Server, currently in beta testing, that will feature tighter ties with many of the collaboration capabilities woven into the Windows Server 2003 scheduled to be delivered on April 24.

The new version, which Microsoft has renamed the Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003, is intended to be a single portal capable of integrating a range of line-of-business applications, thereby allowing users to access all the information they need through a single sign-on.

Microsoft officials hope the product can serve as a “hub” for all other Microsoft Office Systems, providing an end-to-end solution by connecting workers to “personally relevant information, applications, people, and teams,” according to Jeff Teper, general manager of Microsoft Business Portals Group in Redmond, Wash.

Essentially, by combining the collaboration features built into Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and Windows SharePoint Services, users are better able to create and manage Web sites meant to primarily collaborate on documents and projects, company officials said.

Some of the features that are designed to improve workflow include document versioning, approval workflow, check in and check out, document profiling, and publishing. Users can also personalize intranet and extranet sites they build with additional “user-profiling capabilities,” according to Microsoft officials.

Avanade Inc. officials said they are engaged with several corporate users evaluating Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 involving a number of applications including financial services.

“We think the product offers a compelling value proposition for users needing a flexible and enterprise portal solution. What particularly works well for us is its ability to manage secure access to back-end systems that can deliver the right set of data to the right user,” said Eric Blankenburg, Avanade’s enterprise collaboration practice advisor.

Some of the personalization features of the product include the ability to tailor portal pages for each user based on who they are and what they do, navigation bars that can change to display options on each portal page base on selected WebParts and user permissions, and the ability to target content within WebParts for an organization or an individual.

The product is not expected to be available until sometime during the second half of this year. Pricing will be set at product launch, a company spokesman said.