SharePoint is a huge platform, and there are many competing technologies for you to learn to become a proficient SharePoint developer. However, three areas stand out above all others: Silverlight, JQuery, and Windows Azure. Although each one of these on its own can fill volumes, let’s briefly look at each technology and see why it’s so important to SharePoint.

 Silverlight

Silverlight is a platform for creating rich and interactive experiences on the web, on the desktop, and on mobile devices. Silverlight enables you to take your SharePoint site to the next level. You can easily integrate rich media experiences in your sites. Silverlight has great tooling support for developers using Visual Studio 2010 and for designers using Expression Blend 4. The Silverlight tools will reduce the time it takes to build, debug, and deploy your SharePoint applications. Learning Silverlight is straightforward for .NET developers and even easier if you have Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) experience. Also what makes Silverlight my number 1 recommendation is that once you learn Silverlight, those skills can be leveraged across SharePoint and ASP.NET applications in the web browser. Those same skills will enable you to create desktop applications running in full trust on the client machine. And later this fall you’ll be able to use those same skills to build rich phone applications on the Windows Phone 7 platform.

Are you ready to get started? Then go to http://www.silverlight.net. This site contains everything you need to get under way, including how to set up your development environment, training, and examples. If you want to push your Silverlight skills to the next level building Windows Phone 7 applications, head over to http://developer.windowsphone.com.

 jQuery

jQuery is an open source JavaScript library for manipulating the HTML DOM and creating interactive web pages. The beauty of JQuery is in its simplicity. jQuery enables you to easily find and select HTML DOM elements and then manipulate the properties of the elements. The power of jQuery is in its extensibility. JQuery has thousands of extensions that enable animations, navigations, UI controls, and more. There are two sides to each SharePoint solution—code that runs on the server and code that runs on the client. In SharePoint, the code that runs on the client is JavaScript. And the best way to program with JavaScript is to use jQuery. jQuery makes it easy to do AJAX-style programming with SharePoint, including calling SharePoint’s SOAP-based web services from JavaScript. Since jQuery is all client side-you can create robust SharePoint solutions without deploying any code to the server. The Content Editor Web Part (CEWP) makes it easy for someone with contributor rights to add jQuery code to any page. This works for both on premises SharePoint sites as well as SharePoint Online sites.

Are you ready to get started? Go to the official jQuery site at http://jquery.com. The site contains training and tutorials for learning jQuery. You can also download the jQuery library from the site. jQuery is also hosted by Microsoft’s CDN infrastructure, so you could just add the script reference to the library at http://ajax.microsoft.com/ajax/jquery/jquery-1.4.2.min.js and you wouldn’t need to download anything. And finally you’ll find a catalog of some of the available plug-ins at http://plugins.jquery.com.

Windows Azure

Windows Azure platform is Microsoft’s cloud solution. The Azure platform consists of three main pieces. The first is Windows Azure. This is the application operating system in the cloud. It’s the environment where your applications or services run. The second is SQL Azure. SQL Azure is the cloud-scalable relational database. And the final piece is Windows Azure AppFabric. The AppFabric enables you to easily connect to applications or services in the cloud or on premises. Although this is a separate platform from SharePoint, SharePoint and Azure applications and data work very well together to create interesting and scalable solutions that span online and on premises. For example, you could store large volumes of relational data in SQL Azure and use Windows Azure to host services that can manipulate this data. Then, using SharePoint’s collaboration and business intelligence (BI) features, you could surface this data to end users in the applications they are using every day such as Office.

Are you ready to get started? The first place to go is the Microsoft Azure home page at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsazure. On this site you’ll learn about what Windows Azure is and how to get started. As a developer you will want to go to http://msdn.com/windowsazure. You’ll find training and tutorials on getting started.