Microsoft’s decision to move SharePoint into the cloud in Office 365 was the right move but was handled poorly, according to Andrew Connell, SharePoint trainer and keynote speaker at the upcoming SPTechCon SF in April. And the fallout has been a major shift in developing applications for SharePoint.

“I think it’s the right thing for SharePoint, but the messaging was so abrupt from the previous version that it caught people by surprise,” he said. In fact, it did more than that: It alarmed many SharePoint users and third-party software providers, causing them all to look around and see what else might be out there for them. “It’s the evolution of the Web, and SharePoint is right to go in that direction, but there will be some pain. They didn’t do a good job of explaining that at the last SPC [Microsoft’s SharePoint conference]. They just wanted to market the heck out of Office 365.”

For users of the on-premise server, SharePoint Server 2013 introduces a new app model that developers will have to master. But the move to Office 365, which can dramatically reduce costs for small and medium businesses, creates a whole new paradigm for creating applications.

“Development (for Office 365) is less SharePoint-y and more generic. Now they have to consider OAuth, REST, script and HTML. It’s a democratization of the platform,” Connell told me. “Old-school SharePoint developers have to evolve with the platform and learn these new skills.”

When I asked him if this represented Web 3.0 or Cloud 2.0, Connell said, “It’s really the programmable Web, with everybody having an API and you build stuff to interface with those APIs.” The Client Object Model and REST are the two APIs Microsoft offers for this kind of development, he said.

One thing that Connell found somewhat amusing is that while SharePoint developers are anxious over the move to the cloud, Web developers actually made this move about five years ago. “They go, ‘Really? You’re just getting into this? Have you heard of 8-tracks?’ ”

Aside from learning the skills, organizations have to consider how they live in this new SharePoint-in-the-cloud world. “So maybe Microsoft updates 365 but changes an API, and now your apps break,” Connell said. “And your answer to the C-level guys is, ‘We have to wait for Microsoft to fix it.’ People are looking for guidance on how to deal with that.”

Anecdotally, Connell said he sees about 40% or more of SharePoint users staying on-premise, about 40% moving some data and content into the cloud, and perhaps 15-20% who moved to Office 365 and are leaving, primarily due to reliability issues. “This is where Microsoft has to get it cleaned up.”

This article is the first in a series of articles with SharePoint experts and speakers at SPTechCon, April 22-25 in San Francisco. You can learn more about Andrew and the sessions he will be delivering at SPTechCon here.