This content is part of the Essential Guide: Navigating the Office 365 and SharePoint hybrid roadmap

The future of SharePoint development is SharePoint Online

In a reversal from Microsoft's previous modus operandi, it will now focus its feature customization in its cloud-based version of SharePoint, not its on-premises version.

Microsoft is all in on the cloud, and its SharePoint Online development focus is just one indication.

SharePoint is Microsoft's collaboration platform for document sharing and editing, content storage, enterprise social networking and more. SharePoint Online is the cloud-based version of the application, which is part of Office 365. Traditionally an on-premises, installed application, SharePoint came to the cloud in the 2013 version, after Microsoft redoubled its efforts to build its presence in cloud computing apps. As we approach the next release of SharePoint, 2016, due out in early 2016, Microsoft has made yet another reversal. Where previously Microsoft began development of new features in the on-premises version, it has now focused SharePoint development to begin in the cloud, bringing those features only later to on-premises SharePoint.

As SharePoint and BI expert Scott Robinson indicated in this podcast, if there was any doubt, SharePoint 2016 puts it to rest: The future of SharePoint development is in the cloud.

"Now the key point in the evolution of SharePoint 2016 on-premises is that now the tail is wagging the dog," Robinson said. "Instead of a sophisticated 2013 on-premises and a lagging-behind SharePoint Online, at this point SharePoint Online is driving on-prem."

There are pluses and minuses to this cloud-first approach. At one level, it means that development is now the testing ground for new features, not SharePoint on-premises. Functionality is likely to roll out much faster than previously, which some companies may find welcome innovation, while others may see it as too much change. It may lock users in to some design changes that don't bode well, particularly for customers that use non-Microsoft applications as well.

Robinson also discussed Microsoft's OneDrive for Business strategy and whether Microsoft can encourage more solid adoption of OneDrive (while OneDrive has been a point of encouragement for some companies to adopt Office 365, it has been a point of confusion for others) as well as the deprecation of certain services, such as support for public-facing websites. As Robinson noted, the deprecation of public-facing websites in SharePoint spells higher costs for customers that want to continue to use them.

"The problem is that MSFT is trying to be more focused on their cloud products," Robinson said, which can come at a higher cost for customers. "If we want public-facing, the day is soon coming where, we are going to have to go to a third-party provider to create public-facing sites on top of SharePoint. We have to pay for SharePoint and we have to pay for the third party."

For more, check out this podcast above.

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