With the official release of Office 365 having come and gone, many developers may be asking themselves, “What does this mean for me?” Well, as with most things, it depends. Are you a consultant or working for a software company? If the answer is yes, then you will need to get up to speed on the cloud-based service offerings (if you haven’t already) and hone your skills.

If you are working in an environment that does not fit nicely into those two classifications, then it may not mean much for you at this point. I would suggest, though, that you get up to speed as well so that when the time comes—and it is only a matter of time—you are able to hit the ground running.

When it comes to developing SharePoint-based cloud solutions, you have a couple of options. You can create Sandboxed Solutions, Web services-based solutions, or solutions that utilize SharePoint’s Client Object Model. While Sandboxed Solutions come with a number of limitations that can make them less than useful in many situations, the Web service option—and more importantly the Client Object Model option—offer hope. Using the Client Object Model in combination with Silverlight is becoming a popular choice for developing solutions with SharePoint and the cloud.

While the future and direction of Silverlight on the whole is a little murky at the moment, it nonetheless is a powerful and compelling tool to use with SharePoint. Microsoft is making a significant investment in Silverlight-based solutions with the soon-to-be-released Visual Studio LightSwitch 2011. While LightSwitch is not SharePoint-specific, it is SharePoint-aware and can make creating a basic SharePoint application simple and quick. It will not be the “be-all, end-all” for application development, but it will allow developers to quickly build meaningful business apps based on SharePoint and non-SharePoint data.

Silverlight will be involved in many SharePoint cloud-based solutions, for those getting up to speed, a good reference will be Wrox’s “Professional SharePoint 2010 Cloud Based Solutions,” which is being written by several Microsoft folks and is due out in the near future.

Larry Riemann is a consultant with SharePoint911.