I recently stumbled upon this presentation from Gartner about Portal Scenarios. In one of the slides it talks about the 6 generations of Portal technology: from content aggregation to portal aggregation. -Quite interesting material although it is quite surprising how they manage to fit 6 generations in a time span of less then 10 years). Here's a quick overview with some additional background info of how you can position SharePoint Server 2007 in this picture:
- Generation 1 (1998-2000): focuses on what we now categorize as basic portal capabilities: content management and aggregation, search and categorization, personalization and a lightweight application framework. This is more or less the features that we saw in SharePoint Portal Server 2001 and 2003. The same feature got quite extensively broadened in SharePoint Server 2007 especially with regards to content management.
- Generation 2 (2002-mid 2002): additional features added with regards to application integration, collaboration capabilities, support for mobile and wireless devices and better management tools. Again core capabilities in SharePoint Server 2007 e.g. application integration through web parts and Business Data Catalog, mobile support (e.g. mobile views in SharePoint )
- Generation 3 (mid 2002 - 2003): process integration, support for multiple portals, advanced personalization, knowledge management capabilities, web services and federated search. This is the first generation where we see a first gap arise with a standard SharePoint 2007 platform - especially with regards to the knowledge management capabilities and process integration. The foundation are however available for third party vendors to built these kind of solutions. One of the key things to keep in mind when looking at SharePoint is the fact that it is actually a platform upon which best-of breed services can be built so when there are some gaps with regards to process integration - you can quite easily find a number of partners in the Microsoft ecosystem which will built upon the basic platform capabilities - e.g. Nintex , Ascentn AgilePoint, K2.NET and Captaris Teamplate, ...
- Generation 4 (2004 - mid 2005): advanced web services (strong point for SharePoint Server 2007 - all functionality is exposed through a web services layer), multichannel interaction, composite applications (again supported through the web part framework), personal content, microsites, JSR168 & WSRP (for more about WSRP and SharePoint and some background info take a look WSRP and JSR168 are two completely different things as well as Time to discuss WSRP)
- Generation 5 (mid 2005 - 2007) : SOBA/PIP/PCA support, orchestration, advanced collaboration, user experience management, WSRP V2 & JSR286, portal as services. This where you will see support for Web 2.0 capabilities such as blogs and wikis (See Wiki while you work ), mash ups, social networking applications, etc ...
- Generation 6 (2008 - 2009) : Portal ubiquity (product angle and user angle), user-managed portal aggregation (client-based/server-based/hosted) and peer portal federation
You might have noticed that the last two generation are less clearly defined - most of current vendors provide 4th generation offerings although not all vendors will support the same features. A lot will also depend at how these vendors have evolved (some evolved from the ECM side others more from the BPM side) and how they package their offering. Generation 5 portal products seem to focus on providing a face/window for SOA as they will provide off-the-shelf support for service-oriented business applications (SOBAs), packaged integrating processes (PIPs) and packaged composite applications (PCAs), as well as process orchestration and syndication of services.