Microsoft SharePoint Syntex – what is it?

SharePoint Syntex was added to the Microsoft Product Terms in October 2020 – but what is it?

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Project Cortex

First of all – we need to consider Project Cortex. This is a Microsoft program to weave Artificial Intelligence (AI) into a range of their products to help users and serves as something of an “umbrella”. SharePoint Syntex is the first product “from” Project Cortex but there are clear plans from Microsoft for several more to follow.

What does SharePoint Syntex do?

Introducing the concept of “topic centers”, SharePoint Syntex aims to automatically replicate the way that humans process documents including recognizing content, extracting information, and applying metadata tags. It works across Office docs, PDFs, and images and is another example of Microsoft’s move towards Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – alongside their advances with the Power Platform and Microsoft 365 E3.

For organisations processing a lot of data within documents – such as CVs, proposals, articles etc. – this could represent a new way for them to work smarter, not harder. Utilising AI to perform many of these tasks will free up human users for higher value projects. Microsoft are working on connectors to enable organisations to pull data from 3rd party systems into the Microsoft Graph and then utilise it within SharePoint Syntex.

At launch, it only supports English and Microsoft plan to add additional languages “in 2021”. They do say however, that you can create bespoke “topics” in any language and that certain functions, such as processing forms content, are language agnostic.

Taken from


SharePoint Syntex is available as an add-on license for commercial Microsoft 365 customers and costs $5 per user per month. It appears to be available for the Microsoft 365 Business SKUs as well as the Enterprise suites.

Anyone who will be “using, consuming, or otherwise benefitting from” the capabilities of SharePoint Syntex will need a license. Microsoft list out a range of scenarios that require licenses including where users:

  • Access a Content Center
  • Create a document understanding model in a Content Center
  • Upload content to a library where a document understanding model is associated (whether in a Content Center or elsewhere)
  • Manually execute a document understanding model
  • View a library where a document understanding model is associated
  • Create a forms processing model via the entry point in a SharePoint library
  • Upload content to a library where a forms processing model is associated
  • View a library where a forms processing model is associated

This creates a whole new set of circumstances for organisations to become under-licensed and to have those wonderful, bordering on the philosophical conversations with Microsoft like “What IS the definition of benefiting?”, “What exactly is a “capability”?” etc 😁

Further Reading

Free trial and buy here

Microsoft Product Terms – October 2020

Photo by Markus Winkler on

Teams Rooms Standard & Premium Device subscription licenses have been added.

SharePoint Syntex is added. This is “trainable AI” that can help process corporate data and automate some of the tasks involved. See more info on what it is and how it’s licensed here.

Dynamics 365 Project Operations added. As sure as night turns to day, there’s a new D365 SKU 😂 This is a replacement for Project Service Automation (PSA).

The snappily named “Audio Conferencing Extended Dial-out minutes to USA/CAN” is added. This add-on license gives “virtually unlimited” US & Canada dial-out minutes, although there is a “fair use” policy.

The new “Extra Graph Connector Capacity” license enables additional indexing using Microsoft Graph connectors. Graph being Microsoft’s evolving connective layer between various MS products that we will continue to see pop up over the coming months for sure. In my opinion, this is another example of Microsoft moving towards a licensing model reminiscent of IBM/SAP/Salesforce where there are 100s of odd, obscure metrics based around quantity and usage – making them easy to exceed and difficult to track.

None of the recently announced security name changes have been updated though…

Microsoft Productivity Servers in 2021

What is the future for the on-premises versions of Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and Skype for Business Server aka the Productivity Servers? Microsoft’s move to the cloud is clear, successful, and accelerating so where does that leave organisations not yet ready to ditch their locally deployed servers? Will there be another release or are the current 2019 versions the end of the road?

More information has been revealed at Microsoft Ignite 2020, both in this Teams session “On Skype for Business? Design your path to Microsoft Teams” and this Exchange session- “Exchange – Here, There, and Everywhere“. There WILL be a new release (or a “vNext” as Microsoft call it) for:

  • Skype for Business Server
  • Exchange Server
  • SharePoint Server

available in the 2nd half of 2021 – so still around 12 months away at the time of writing.

Licensing change

These next releases will be on-premises but available only via a subscription model. Does this mean there will a change to the licensing model i.e. will they remove CALs etc. or is it just the same licenses and metrics but with no perpetual license option? I’m not sure yet but I’ll keep an eye out for more info.

Microsoft are treating this as an intermediate step for customers unwilling to move to Office 365. Once the CAPEX v OPEX argument is removed, I’m sure many orgs will find their move to the cloud speeds up significantly – which is a win for Microsoft.

There are plenty of technical improvements coming for all the products, as well as Exchange Online (including “+ addresses” like Gmail which is cool!) – the Ignite videos and the links below will give more info on those.

Further Reading

TomTalks blog

Petri article

Microsoft Office 365, Sharepoint Online and Mail Enabled Lists

Microsoft Sharepoint does so many things that there are 100’s of features used by only a subset of companies, but there are a number of features that are pretty key to the majority of Sharepoint organizations. To me, one of these is:

Mail Enabled Lists

Basically, this allows you to send emails to a list within Sharepoint and have it catalogue the mail and also store any attachments to that mail; I think that’s pretty cool!

This feature wasn’t available in BPOS and I discovered today it won’t be available in the soon to be released Office 365 either. I couldn’t really understand why as, on the face of it, mail enabled lists appear to be quite an easy feature to enable. I asked one of the Microsoft TSP’s today and also did a little Bing based research and have come up with something of an answer.

The official answer from Microsoft Corp. is:

“They are currently disabled due to performance, scalability, policy enforcement, data requirements and legal compliance issues that can affect Enterprise customers”

Looking into it further, I came across a post on Joel Oleson’s MSDN based blog on the subject of Mail Enabled lists which throws some more light onto the subject. He says:

“MS IT has been very cautious about their support for email enabled lists and specifically only supporting it on few isolated environments”

which I found very surprising. Luckily he goes on to answer my question – Why?

“Email enabled lists create contact objects in AD, it takes careful coordination to create these contact objects and ensure the proper write access to a specific OU. Imagine 500,000 lists all with the ability to be email enabled”

BPOS/Office 365 is a multi tenant setup, meaning there could be millions of lists in the cloud based Active Directory, many of which could have 1000’s of updates a day. That is quickly a huge overhead for the servers and infrastructure to cope with, potentially leading to a negative impact on the service Microsoft offer to their customers.

Hopefully in the future, Microsoft will enable this feature…perhaps with a maximum limit per company for number of lists/number of daily updates etc. However there is no word floating around the halls of any such move for the foreseeable future…

What are your thoughts – are mail enabled lists important to you? Would it stop you from moving to the cloud? Let me know in the comments Smile

Project Server 2010 & Sharepoint Server

Project Server 2010 is the latest version of Microsoft’s Project planning and collaboration solution, and it can be much more confusing.

The previous version, Project Server 2007, was a stand alone product whereas Project Server 2010 has some dependencies on SharePoint 2010. However finding out exactly what these dependencies were and how necessary they all are was quite a lengthy process, one which I will describe here to save you time Smile

The question is:

“Does Project Server 2010 require Sharepoint Server 2010”

The answer is:


As to which version of SharePoint is required, well that’s where it got interesting!

I could see how sitting Project Server on top of SharePoint would be useful so I imagined that SharePoint 2010 Foundation would do the job. It’s pretty powerful and it’s free – seems the perfect fit to drive a Project Server 2010 implementation. However, a look at Technet brought up this:


I found it hard to believe that it would require the ENTERPRISE version, as that isn’t cheap, so I set off to verify this.

Ask Partner:

I spoke to the Microsoft Ask Partner Technical Pre-Sales team and they did the same as me. Said that Foundation would be fine…and then checked Technet!

Still I wasn’t satisfied so I went to the


site and there I found this:


A diagram of the Server Architecture for a Project Server 2010 implementation from:

To me, the above says that SharePoint Foundation is perfectly acceptable and that SharePoint Enterprise is only required to serve ASPX pages in the Project Web App.

I’d love to get some feedback as to your thoughts on the above Smile

I went back to the Ask Partner team and they agreed with me.

So at this point it seems that SharePoint Foundation is fine and we’re about done.

However, I also put this request out to the TwitterSphere and one of my favourite people at Microsoft came back and told me to look on page 117 of this month’s Product List, so I did…



Project Server 2010 customers will require SharePoint Server 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010 Standard and Enterprise CALs

Despite that, they’re still one of my favourites Smile

The Answer

So that’s it really…both Technet and the Product Lists say that if you want to run Project Server 2010 you MUST also licence SharePoint Server 2010 with Standard AND Enterprise CALs.

My Thoughts

I don’t particularly agree with this, as it adds quite a chunk onto the cost of the solution.

Project Server £3768
Project Pro £684
Total £4452
SharePoint Server £3768
SharePoint Std CAL £72
SharePoint Ent CAL £63
Total £3903
Grand Total £8355

The above is based on standard Open Licensing and as you can see, the addition of SharePoint Enterprise almost doubles the solution cost.

I understand that having SharePoint Enterprise gives the client a whole raft of other wonderful tools and I’m a huge fan of SharePoint however, it’s a lot of extra money if you’re not going to use any of the extra features. I feel this will prohibit many businesses from being able to implement a full Project Server solution.


I am currently researching an alternative solution which is based on SharePoint Foundation customisations and from what I’ve heard so far, this could be a great alternative for many people.

Microsoft BPOS: More new features

Microsoft BPOS has, yet again, been something of a star of the Worldwide Partner Conference and a bunch of new features have been confirmed/announced. They are:

Exchange Online:

  • Voice mail with Unified Messaging
  • Integrated archiving
  • Retention policies and legal hold
  • Transport rules
  • Multi-mailbox search
  • Conversation View
  • MailTips
  • Enhanced Web-based administration
  • Role-Based Access Control
  • Remote PowerShell
  • Free/busy between cloud and on-premises
  • Cross-premises management
  • Native migration tools


    Sharepoint Online:


  • Portal site templates
  • Extranet access
  • Anonymous Access
  • Multi-Lingual UI
  • Office 2010 integration
  • Tagging, Rating, Tag Cloud
  • Activity Feed, Social Networking, Note Board
  • Improved Wikis & Blogs
  • Content publishing
  • Navigation controls
  • Cross site-collection search
  • Phonetic search
  • People search
  • Visio Services
  • Excel Services
  • Sandboxed Solutions
  • Improved workflows
  • Improved SharePoint Designer 2010
  • Access Services
  • Better controls of FQDNs


    Office Communications Online:


  • P2P A/V across firewall
  • File transfer across firewall
  • Presence with pictures
  • Federation
  • IM with Windows Live


    Platform Updates:


  • Free/Busy co-existence
  • Single Sign On
  • Identity federation
  • Redesigned admin interface
  • More administration and access control

    There are some really awesome additions here, which will make BPOS hugely more attractive and credible to users in the mid-market segment. Some of the game changes are, in my opinion,:

    Exchange Online:

    • Transport Rules
    • Legal Hold
    • Unified Messaging
    • Remote Powershell

    Sharepoint Online:

    Extranet & Anonymous Access

    Cross Site Collection Search

    Visio, Access & Excel Services

    Office Communications Online:



    These new features bring Microsoft’s Online Services so much closer to feature parity with their existing on-premise brethren which is what I, and most people, have been waiting/asking/pleading/clamouring for. The number of times I’ve had a customer opportunity collapse due to BPOS missing a standard and relatively basic feature isn’t funny!

    This is a very positive move from Microsoft which will make the world of Online Services a much better place for Microsoft, it’s partners and our customers 🙂

  • BPOS 2010 aka Wave 14

    BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), Microsoft’s Online Services offering has been somewhat successful over the last year or so, but it is about to become a much more robust platform. Over the next few months the “Wave 14” rollout will begin, with an aim to being completed by the end of 2010.

    The biggest update is that the products will match the versions that are available to purchase “on-site”. That is, BPOS will offer Exchange 2010 and Sharepoint 2010 with near feature parity; removing one of the biggest hurdles to BPOS adoption…at least in my experience.

    However, there are a number of other additions and improvements coming…

    Identity and authentication has been an issue for many people, as this whole area is quite clunky & “un-modern”. As Program Manager Dan Kershaw says:

    “the password policy isn’t configurable, you can’t use the same credentials used inside the company for single sign-on with BPOS so admins have to maintain separate credentials, there’s no two-factor authentication and no role-based administration”.

    The fact that Microsoft recognise these limitations is great as that means they’re also working on fixes. The update will bring:

    • Password Policy controls
    • Five admin roles
    • Federated ID’s w/ 2 factor authentication for single sign-on
    • New Admin Console
    • Service connector for managing Pcs & apps.


    Powershell is definitely the way forward for 21st century system admins and, while it can be used for certain things with the current iteration of BPOS, more is coming soon.

    I covered off some of the new features of Sharepoint Online 2010 in this post but now there is more information on what’s coming for Office Communications Online (OCO) over the next year.

    Currently OCO gives IM and presence, along with peer to peer video, only within the customer’s domain. One of it’s biggest limitations is the inability to “federate” with on-premise OCS servers…this slightly puzzling block will be removed with Wave 14.

    It’s said there will be “full integration” with Exchange & Sharepoint, both on-site and online.

    This will lead to:

    • using the calendars on Exchange/Sharepoint to determine someone’s IM availability
    • voicemail in Exchange Online
    • IM functionality in OWA 2010.

    One of the biggest questions people have is whether Office Comms Online will have VOIP/Voice capabilities.

    "it might be more than a year later," says Ziv Fass, Senior Product Manager in the OCS team "but it won’t be years".

    From a reseller AND a customer point of view, the updated versions of Microsoft’s Online Services will be a real benefit to us all.

    Microsoft BPOS: Sharepoint Online 2010

    Sharepoint 2010 is due for release around April time 2010 and the Online version will become available through BPOS around September time I do believe.

    When the 2010 version of Sharepoint (and Exchange & OCS) hit online, they will be SO much more fully features than the current 2007 versions; they will in fact be almost the same! This will be especially notable with Sharepoint as their is a large disparity at the moment:

    Read Comparison of Sharepoint Server & Sharepoint Online

    Sharepoint Online 2010 will include all the Business Intelligence (BI) aspects such as:

    • Excel Services
    • Forms Server
    • Dashboards
    • Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)

    and more 🙂 As a BPOS Partner this is great news…the BI features are becoming more interesting to more people and not having these features can be quite a big barrier to Sharepoint Online adoption. That’ll all change next year which is great news 🙂


    Wave 14 will bring some changes to the BPOS licensing too…there will be Standard and Enterprise USLS…just as there are for the on-premise CALs.

    However, the split of features between the 2 will be decidedly different. The Enterprise CAL will include:

    FAST Enterprise Search

    There are also rumblings that it will include some part of, or ways of linking to, Microsoft’s Data Warehousing technology “Project Madison”. This would certainly fit with the BI capabilities inside Sharepoint…

    I’ll be doing a post dedicated to Madison soon so keep your eyes peeled for that 🙂

    This is all great news, for partners, customers and Redmond as, come H2 of 2010, Sharepoint Online will be a formidable challenger in the world of S+S/SAAS BI and should be pretty great. I, for one, am excited 🙂

    Props to W Cornwill for the Britney pic!

    Microsoft Semblio

    Microsoft Semblio is a new iteration of their development platform which utilises .NET and WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) and is specifically targeted towards the educational market.

    Semblio can be used to create information rich, graphically engaging, immersive learning materials using a wide range of multimedia, all aimed at enhancing the learning experience for students (and indeed, the teaching experience for teachers!). As it is based on the .NET Framework:

    “it works across software, services, and learning management systems.”

    However, it isn’t just for developers. The Semblio assembly tool, which will ship with Office 2010, will:

    “allow multiple content types to be combined into a single, rich, multimedia presentation, all in a single, familiar, and easy-to-use Microsoft Office-like application”


    This has got something of a Web 2.0 “mashup” stle about it and will certainly be familiar and more engaging for students than more traditional methods. This next screenshot shows the kind of interactivity that can be expected:

    Semblio screenshot1

    Using the slider to increase/decrease the temperature and seeing the effects on the water…


    This can either mean that schools will have the ability to create exciting learning materials in-house as well as making it easier for partners to create such materials too. You can:

    • Increase the value of your content by enabling educators to customize materials to their specific requirements.
    • Engage today’s students and foster exploratory learning with packaging and arrangement of dynamic, interactive, and rich instructional material.
    • Improve efficiency during content creation by enabling nontechnical subject matter experts to participate in the content creation process
    • Reduce the cost of going digital by creating your content once, then delivering it to all customers regardless of platform.

    To me this looks like a great new addition to the Office suite of products and also a great addition to schools, for students and teachers alike. Having been on visits to various schools this year, it’s clear that they’re much more advanced that back in my day (!) and can sometimes rival corporations when it comes to technology adoption.

    VLE’s (Virtual Learning Environments) such as Moodle, and products such as Sharepoint have made big changes to learning over the past few years; and I can see Semblio really making a mark. These interactive lesson modules delivered in Moodle accessed via Sharepoint would give a great experience for students at home/learning remotely.

    I’d be interested to hear what people involved with Education think about this…be it students, teachers, IT managers, suppliers, coders etc 🙂

    Get Started:

    Download the Semblio SDK.

    Download Visual Studio 2008

    Get familiar Service pack 1 of .NET 3.5 platform

    Get familiar with WPF

    If you want to get more in-depth, grab the programmer’s guide here.

    Other Links:

    Semblio: How it works

    Semblio Blog

    Licensing Sharepoint in Education

    Microsoft licensing can often be a confusing subject and it is perhaps in the education arena where most confusion can occur, with it’s mix of staff, students, parents, connected yet separate academic bodies etc. I today saw a great post on Educational Sharepoint licensing that helps clear up some confusion and show the extras that Microsoft can offer.

    The most basic schools licensing covers staff and students while at school, but you can also purchase separate “Student” CALs which cover them for access from non-school owned (I.e their own) PC’s and so access from home. Where students are covered in this way, the Sharepoint Server access is extended to the student’s parents/guardians without any extra licences being needed.

    So a customer can prove that they are entitled to this right, they can download the “Parent/Guardian CAL grant letter” to keep in their records here.

    Parent-Guardian CAL Letter.

    This applies to licences purchased via Open Academic, Select Academic, Schools Agreement and Campus Agreement.

    Another great benefit is the “External Connector Grant“. If an educational establishment has:

    1. A product for which an External Connector licence is available (Exchange, Windows Svr, Sharepoint etc) and
    2. Covered all faculty/staff with CALs and
    3. Covered all Student s with “Student Option” CALs too

    then access rights will also be granted to:

    • Prospective Students
    • Alumni
    • Student/Staff at collaborating Academic and Government bodies

    at no extra cost!

    Again, a grant letter can be downloaded to prove entitlement to this benefit here:

    External Connector Grant Letter

    This benefit is available via Schools Agreements and Campus Agreements.

    These are two excellent extra benefits that MS licensing provides that will certainly help make it easier and cheaper for schools to have a truly collaborative environment. However I do think MS need to do a better job at publicising things like this or, at least making sure all their Partners are fully aware of them but that said-it’s good to see that the benefits of MS volume licensing just keep coming 🙂

    The source post on the MSDN Schools blog is here.

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