Microsoft is hosting about 800 of its system partners, ISVs and Office application developers at its Redmond, Wash., campus this week to drill down into deep technical issues, talk about high-level business challenges and explore what the Office System is all about.
Richard McAniff, corporate vice president of Microsoft Office System, told eWEEK in an interview that the focus of the conference would be on the current Microsoft Office System 2003 and not on Office 12, on which almost no information has been made public as of yet.
Asked by eWEEK why Microsoft Corp. is still pushing Office System 2003 more than a year after release and while another version of Office is under active development, McAniff said, “We are always working on a new version of Office, but what we are doing is making big, consistent bets that will carry from version to version.”
“We will not talk about the next version of Office but rather about Office System 2003, as there is so much here that is available today and we dont want to detract from that,” he said.
Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates will address attendees Friday morning, while McAniff addressed them earlier this week.
In an interview with eWEEK, McAniff said the events intention is to focus its Office partners and ISVs on Office System 2003 technology and how this—and the applications that run on top of it—can be used to improve customer businesses.
“I will spend a lot of time talking about high-level business challenges and what the Office System is all about. Office has really changed and, as such, so have the implications for developers. XML is now a key technology and allows new solutions to be built that were impossible a few years ago,” he said.
McAniff, who has a strong background in tools, said the new world that developers, businesses and consumers live in today has changed the landscape for the types of solutions that can be enabled, citing how the Office System is now connected to the back end through XML.
“XML has radically enabled the type of solutions you can build with the Office System, like the ability to apply XML across the board with things like Word. Documents are becoming more like databases, and XML is enabling this. Users can now treat elements inside documents as if they were fields in a database,” he said.
Todays back-end ERP systems can generate a Word document on the fly using XML, allowing users to open these documents and move them around. The ability to connect to Web services is extending that capability, he said.
In his address, McAniff sketched the opportunities that are available, while also showing how products such as SharePoint work and can be used as a development environment. “We will drill down into how these solutions can be built,” he said.
Microsoft realized that it could not build all of these solutions itself or meet all of the vertical needs, so that was where the developer community came into play.
“While we have already seen many solutions built, like the North Carolina State Patrol, which is using InfoPath to get information from troopers to connect with back-end systems. They have saved three-and-a-half person years doing this,” he said.
While this was the first such Office System developer conference, Microsoft aims to turn it into an annual event.
“This is a great way for us to get feedback from customers and developers and for them to get deep technical know-how from our developers and program managers responsible for the different product areas,” McAniff said.
In one of his periodic “Executive E-Mail” missives, Gates on Thursday echoed many of the same themes that Microsoft officials outlined to attendees of the Office System developer conference.
Gates e-mail message, sent to Microsoft customers and partners, highlighted Microsofts myriad approaches to making its products interoperable with those from other vendors. Gates identified XML as one of the main ways that Microsoft is ensuring that its software is “interoperable by design.”
Gates emphasized that interoperability should not be confused with open-source software.
“Interoperability is about how different software systems work together,” Gates told e-mail recipients. “Open source is a methodology for licensing and/or developing software—that may or may not be interoperable.
“Additionally, the open-source development approach encourages the creation of many permutations of the same type of software application, which could add implementation and testing overhead to interoperability efforts.”
Microsoft also is in the midst of a monthlong series of Webcasts dedicated to the theme of interoperability.
The Webcasts, some of which are being conducted by Microsoft competitors, address “interoperabilty—why it matters to the business, common strategies and methods, and guidance on specific implementation scenarios between the major platform players,” according to Microsoft.
Editors Note: Mary Jo Foley provided additional reporting for this story.
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