It’s the time of year during which the crystal balls are broken out and folks try to see into the future to predict what in the world might happen in the coming year (aside from the world itself coming to an end!). I recently had a chance to chat with Chris McNulty, a longtime friend of the SPTech* family who’s now chief SharePoint evangelist at Quest Software, and he gave us his 12 predictions of what the 2012 landscape for SharePoint will look like.

1) Native social networking will not see universal adoption. On-premise adoption of native SharePoint social functionality will occur only at the pilot level or in self-selecting groups, McNulty expected. In SharePoint, social capabilities are tied to the product life cycle, while people have come to expect newer features such as hash-tagging and targeting, he said. While third parties come to market with more powerful social solutions, he does not see universal uptake.

2) Social networking in the cloud will be similarly constrained. This, McNulty said, is due to a lack of clear standards for interoperability between social networks in the cloud. So, while some organizations might dabble in Office 365 and try to tie in to existing social networks, this is all still too immature to see much traction in 2012, he predicted.

3) SharePoint will become personal. Expect users to demand to be able to manage their content at a personal level, beyond the site level, McNulty said. He predicted personal content management capabilities, with a personalized view of all content a user touches visible in a single view, will extend the promise of SharePoint personalization.

4) Cloud awareness will increase. The year 2012 will not see the wholesale replacement of customized, on-premise SharePoint sites with cloud solutions, McNulty predicted. Instead, it will be a year of increased awareness of the cloud, as companies work to figure out strategies and timetables for cloud adoption, using some third-party providers or Microsoft Office 365.

5) Security and authentication will become more important. With the rise of the cloud, these issues will need more resources behind them than they did when everything was hosted on premise, McNulty said.

6) Mobile platforms will play a larger role in SharePoint. Tablets are on the rise as a form factor for consuming content; SharePoint admins, designers and developers will need to create applications that folks can take with them on these devices. Conversely, McNulty does not see an uptick of SharePoint on phone-based devices, as there are too many constraints; rendering is perhaps the biggest one. “There will be 5 million Android tablets showing up in the marketplace on Jan. 2,” he said. “One- to two million of those will be brought into the workplace. But devices like Kindle can’t run Office Web apps in the same way as a keyboard device can.”

7) The complexities of cloud- and mobile-based computing will drive people to more easily manage and govern their SharePoint sites, as components and services replace coding from scratch, McNulty predicted.

8) Governance needs will lead adoption. Organizations need to define governance in terms of the next wave of SharePoint. “Users need a pattern for business intelligence, workflow, social,” McNulty said.

9) Consolidation will be the next big trend for SharePoint. The next version of SharePoint is sufficiently far out that organizations will use that time to retire old ECM systems and move into SharePoint. McNulty hinted that single-version upgrades are clearly supported in the next version of SharePoint, so now is the time for organizations to make decisions about what data and information to archive for migration to ensure that the content they keep is the right content.

10) SQL Server ‘Denali’ will have tremendous success. For the 5% of organizations doing business intelligence now, Denali will raise their capabilities to a whole new level. For the rest of the organizations using SharePoint, the real promise of business intelligence via Denali will be seen in the next release.

11) As SharePoint matures into its role as a true business platform, the ability to translate and understand user requirements from the perspective of the business will be critical, McNulty said. Things such as workflow, project management and the ability to speak about business requirements in business language will have great value.

12) The debut of SharePoint vNext in November! Finally, users will get to see what new goodness Microsoft has baked into the software that’s grown into a US$1 billion business unit.