Gates Spills Details on Office 12

Speaking at the ninth-annual CEO Summit, Bill Gates says the first beta testing cycle for Office 12 will begin this fall and that Microsoft plans to ship the final suite of products in the second half of 2006.

Bill Gates, Microsofts chairman and chief software architect, on Thursday will confirm that the first beta testing cycle for Office 12, the next version of its desktop productivity suite, will begin this fall and that it currently plans to ship the final suite of products in the second half of 2006.

Gates will make that announcement in his keynote address, titled "The New World of Work" and which he will deliver to 100 CEOs from among the top 1,000 global companies Thursday morning at the ninth-annual CEO Summit at the Redmond, Wash., campus.

Microsoft Corp. so far has said very little publicly about Office 12, a fact noted at this weeks Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in San Francisco, where Gartner analyst Michael Silver quipped, "So, what is Office 12? I dont know. Microsoft is not saying very much about it at the moment, as they want you to still buy the versions currently available."

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead more here about how Office 12 details began to trickle out last year.

In his Thursday address, Gates also will talk about how, over the next decade, Microsoft sees a tremendous opportunity to help companies of all sizes maximize the impact of employees and workgroups, drive deeper connections with customers and partners, enable informed and timely decision-making, and manage and protect critical information.

He also will talk about how the next generation of information worker applications will build on promising technologies such as machine learning, rich metadata for data and objects, new services-based standards for collaboration, advances in computing and display hardware, and self-administering, self-configuring applications.

Gates will send out an "executive e-mail" to thousands of Microsofts staff, partners and customers on the same topic, a copy of which was seen by eWEEK. In the e-mail, he will talk about how Office 12 builds on the solid foundation of the existing Office system of programs and services.

"We will enable people to create more effective professional documents, access work information from anywhere, and better manage personal, team and project tasks. Were investing in a secure infrastructure that makes it easy for anyone to securely collaborate on documents and work processes," Gates e-mail says.

Microsoft also is offering better data visualization and analysis tools that bring out the trends and patterns buried in mountains of data, Gates e-mail says. It adds that the company is making it easier for businesses to create, track, manage and distribute content both within and across organizational boundaries, while also offering open XML standards and rapid development tools so corporate developers can build and extend applications that specifically target their needs.

"Microsoft has been innovating for the information worker for more than two decades—and in many ways, weve only just begun to scratch the surface of how software can help people realize their full potential," his e-mail concludes.

Takeshi Numoto, a senior director for the Microsoft Office System, told eWEEK on Wednesday that Gates also will tell the assembled CEOs that he sees six major trends in information work:

  • The shift to a server-based economy;
  • The notion of one world of business, where workers have to be able to communicate and work seamlessly with colleagues across the globe and who are now becoming unified by a market workplace;
  • The notion of being "always on and always connected," which refers to not only having access to the right information and the right people, but also being able to get actionable items out of all of that data;
  • The notion of a transparent organization, in which workers are given all of the tools they need, but all of the necessary legislative and other frameworks are in place to make the company more transparent;
  • The shrinking workplace where, as more people start retiring, there will be a growing need to retain their information and expertise; and
  • How new workers can be given access to that wealth of data, information and work experience in a comprehensive way.

Next Page: Updating Office 12 to adapt to these trends.