Here at the annual worldwide partner conference on Friday, Microsoft showed off a new Longhorn feature, called Meeting Space, and what seems to be the InfoPath Forms Server expected to be part of the Office 12 family.
Microsoft Windows client executives put through its paces a recent pre-beta build of Longhorn, number 5086.
Microsoft distributed build 5086 to selected Technology Adoption Program partners last week, according to sources.
While Windows officials did not discuss what has changed between the alpha build Microsoft released this spring at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (Build 5048) and 5086, they did demonstrate a feature known as "Meeting Space" that officials are touting as one of the major new Longhorn components.
Meeting Space unites presence and peer-to-peer networking to allow users to create a temporary shared environment where they can collaborate on files and other shared data.
The feature will allow users to conduct impromptu meetings without having to use a Web conferencing product, like Office Live Meeting.
Meeting Space will allow users to discover one other and communicate wirelessly in a casual environment, like a café, or in a business setting where all parties are not able to connect to a single corporate network.
Meanwhile, during a Friday morning worldwide partner keynote address, Information Worker vice president Chris Capossela showed what he called "the very first public demo" of Office 12.
Capossela demonstrated how users will be able to deliver a server-based InfoPath-based form in a browser.
"You get richness on the client with zero footprint," Capossela said.
When asked later if he had demonstrated the InfoPath Forms Server that sources have said will be part of the Office 12 family of products, Capossela hedged.
He said Microsoft has not yet decided on packaging or how it will deliver the kind of functionality it demonstrated on Friday.
The final product could be something like an InfoPath server, or Microsoft might opt to use SharePoint Portal Server to deliver such functionality.
The Office 12 Beta 1 is still due this fall. Final product is on target for the latter half of 2006, Capossela said.
Michael Sievert, the corporate vice president for Windows product management—who joined Microsoft in late February from AT&T Wireless—outlined for a few hundred conference participants Microsofts plans for Longhorn.
In his first public keynote address since joining the company, Sievert reiterated Microsofts Longhorn timetable.
Beta 1 is "weeks away," he said. Beta 2, the first build slated to show off the new Longhorn user interface, is expected to hit in the first part of 2006. Microsoft still is planning to deliver the final code in time for it to reach holiday 2006 customers.