eWEEK: There has been some criticism about Microsofts strategy of linking the clients and servers and the fact that new products are optimized to work best with other current products. Not every company has the funds or is willing to upgrade all their products every time a new release comes out. How do you handle that issue? DelBene: There is a lot of functionality that does not depend on or need our server products. Some of the offline Outlook functionality works regardless of whether you have the new server or not, so that is compelling even before users upgrade to the next version of Exchange. OneNote doesnt require a server; things like reading mode in Word and all of the XML functionality dont depend on a particular server, but rather that you have some server out there that you can do projects with XML on. So its not just Microsoft or Office servers that you have to connect to. Many people will also upgrade the server before the client.DelBene: I dont think thats a fair characterization although I can understand how it developed. Certainly in the past we may have given that impression. We have until now had offerings targeted at certain price points, and we are now defining a character for these small businesses and a suite that is actually tailored toward them. So, whereas in the past our suites were more around packing what we had in different ways, were more focused now on what additional products small businesses would need. So I think youll see tighter couplings between our SMB server, client and Office offerings. eWEEK: So, now that Office System 2003 is almost out the door, what are the compelling scenarios the team is thinking about and has identified for the next version of Office? DelBene: Its hard to say given that were this far out. But we have a lot of leeway on the scenarios we are dealing with today. Take the whole notion of the holistic environment we are creating for knowledge workers, where we want to get to the point where a user can go to a single place and find all the information they need. This will help with things like problem solving and allow analysis based on the data that is made available. Discuss this in the eWEEK forum.
eWEEK: There is a perception among many small and medium-sized businesses that their needs are increasingly being overlooked as Office increasingly appears to be an enterprise solution. Is that perception valid?