Microsoft finally launched SharePoint and Office 2010 this morning, after about 18 months of preparation, at an event for customers and partners in New York. But the thousands of people who work with SharePoint in companies all over the world were not content to let Microsoft own center stage. SharePoint supporters have organized at least 50 parties, with sponsors, all over the U.S. and in several countries. They plan to celebrate the launch, trade war stories, drink, listen to music and have a good time. Links to a party in Seattle tonight — which will feature games, a raffle, and music by the Decibel Festival — have been pulled down because it’s full. Four hundred people, the maximum number, registered to attend, said organizer Joel Oleson, who is known online as SharePoint Joel. Oleson spent seven years working on SharePoint at Microsoft, he said, but left a couple of years ago because Microsoft wanted him to be a project manager and he wanted to continue as a SharePoint evangelist. After working independently for awhile, he joined Quest Software, where his bosses agreed to let him keep evangelizing and training people on SharePoint. After the Seattle party tonight, he will fly to Peru tomorrow to speak at a SharePoint launch party there. “The passion I see in the community is what’s different about SharePoint,” he said. “It’s a passion on a whole new level that I don’t see in other technology. Social networking brings that out in certain individuals, but in SharePoint there are hundreds of people like that — it’s what the product produces.”SharePoint strategist Karuana Gatimu, who organized a party in Santa Monica scheduled for later today, called SharePoint “life-changing.” “We can drive process efficiency to help people’s quality of life in the workplace — we can shave off hours of people’s time doing dumb things with spreadsheets and kick them out of their desks sooner so they can go home,” she said. “Stop compiling stuff off the Web to e-mail and use Excel. Make a team site and share information there. That’s why we’re so enthusiastic. That’s why all these parties are going on.” Social networking is one of the biggest changes in SharePoint 2010, and Microsoft has been pushing it hard. At the event in New York this morning, which was Webcast, Microsoft senior vice president Chris Capossela gave a 25-minute, high-speed demo of the product that showed how employees can create new business networks with Twitter-, LinkedIn- and Facebook-like capabilities inside the walls of their organizations. The influence of Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie was visible – SharePoint has incorporated capabilities of Microsoft Groove, which is based on technology that Ozzie developed before he joined Microsoft — and there’s new integration between SharePoint 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010.Several customers gave testimonials on-stage — executives from GE, KPN and Del Monte Foods, and the CIO from the NSW department of education and training in Australia. That department has built a community based on SharePoint of over 1 million students, educators and parents, said Steven Wilson, the CIO. “We’re building an e-backpack where students can share files, collaborate, receive and post homework, and we believe there are millions of connections and interactions on a weekly basis,” he said. “Students can preserve their learning journey … it’s petabytes of data.” Microsoft’s webcast, which was conducted in 66 countries and simultaneously translated into eight languages, was also powered by Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010. It was not without glitches. Neither of my browsers — Internet Explorer and Firefox — would play it, but I was able to connect after a member of the SharePoint community figured out a work-around and posted it on Twitter.