Office 11 for the Masses?

Raikes realizes he needs to grow the potential office user pool.

When Office 11 Beta 1 officially debuts in the next couple of weeks, dont think of it as a desktop application suite. Instead, envision it as Microsofts new "smart client," and youll have a more accurate picture of how Group Vice President Jeff Raikes and his merry band are attempting to reposition Office.

Raikes has been charged with kick-starting Office sales. In Microsofts latest fiscal year, ended June 30, Office sales grew a dismal 1 percent, Microsoft said. Raikes has nowhere to go but up. Hes in for one heck of a hike, however. Office has cornered more than 90 percent of the market for Windows-based application suites. But many current Office users barely make use of the features already in the suite, so a few more new gizmos wont compel them to upgrade.

Raikes knows he needs to teach users to appreciate the whiz-bang goodies Microsoft has built into its newest versions of Office so that they will retire their tired Office 97 copies at long last. But, more important, he realizes he needs to grow the potential Office user pool. To attract people who normally wouldnt consider themselves information workers, Raikes has set his sights on making Office 11 the premier platform for information access, absorption and collaboration. To do this, Microsoft plans to play up Offices XML-based paperless workflow capabilities, its built-in business intelligence features and its real-time communications features.

Microsoft wants Office to become the casual XML developers work space; the launch pad for .Net services, such as the forthcoming Microsoft research notification service; and the best place for reading online information. As if that werent enough, Microsoft also has designs on more tightly tying Office to the companys myriad back-end enterprise servers.

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