: Raikes Interview"> eWEEK: You will be opening up the binary document format in Office 11, which will allow data mining and server-side processing. How will that affect users? Raikes: Its already open, as you can save an Excel spreadsheet today in XML, you can save an Access database in XML. Weve had an "open file format" for years with Word and Excel. People somehow think this changes the dynamic between competitors trying in effect to clone our software. It turns out its not the file system that stops them, its the ability to write the software in a way that represents a good fidelity for the content. But the arbitrary XML schema element is the most interesting because your ability to connect up with business application systems grows phenomenally because you dont have to write Excel specifically for a financial reporting schema or a content management schema. It just knows how to accept a new schema and do the right thing. And thats what we do in Office 11.Raikes: Yes, our Task Pane now also becomes programmable in XML so that as part of accepting that schema the actions that are associated with how to operate on that schema can be defined by the person who programmed the solution as well. So in effect it becomes a mechanism that guides you through the solution thats built on Office. eWEEK: You continue to be accused of using file formats to prevent other productivity suites from interoperating with Office. Is there merit to these accusations? Raikes: They can use RTF today, they can use XML if they want. The binary format is a proprietary format. The issue is not the binary format vs. RTF, its when they see a table they dont represent it right on-screen, and people care about that. In our opinion our competitors just dont do a good job around the fidelity of the documents. The thing that differentiates the competition is how they take advantage of XML for the type of scenarios weve discussed. Many of them just dont invest enough research and development in future-looking stuff. Theyre always just trying to play catch-up with us. eWEEK: What improvements have been made on the digital rights management (DRM) front in Office 11, particularly in the light of the DRM server Microsoft is working on for release next year? Raikes: We may be able to surprise you in what we can do with DRM. There was some really good work done on DRM for eBooks, but the real business opportunity for that is to use those technologies more broadly for business documents. It also needs to go across corporate boundaries. So the work has been under way, but weve made a corporate decision not to talk publicly about it right now. But I have some optimism about what well be able to do in the Office 11 timeframe. eWEEK: There was a lot of interest in your pilot subscription offering for Office XP in Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. You recently terminated that in Australia. Is this the end for a subscription model for Office going forward? Raikes: Not in my opinion. While its not a priority in the Office 11 timeframe, we have the technology. The pilot was successful in that we learned that the channel today is not really set up to do a good job of explaining what the subscription actually is. The channel created customer misperceptions that we then had to deal with after the time. A couple of things have to go hand-in-hand: One is a better infrastructure for the channel to reach the mass market with a subscription and clearly articulate it. The second is for customers to learn about it and understand what value it might bring. The more we have ongoing software value, the easier that will be. So I think those three things will come together over time and that will be the opportunity. The pilot taught us that. eWEEK: Talk is that the first beta for Office 11 is ready to go and could come within the next two weeks. Can you give me an indication when well see it released? Raikes: Soon. Its close. Well be referencing the personal productivity improvements relative to Outlook and placing a strong emphasis on collaboration and how it ties into SharePoint Team Services, as well as the use of XML to help the Office tools get well connected--and lots more. Related Stories:
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eWEEK: Youre also looking to use Word as an XML development platform, allowing others to create templates and solutions and repurpose content. Is that your goal?