BizOffice: B2B For the Masses?

MS BizOffice will allow corporations to e-business-enable hundreds of trading partners quickly and seamlessly.

What would a cross between Microsofts BizTalk application-integration server and Office desktop look like? BizOffice.

BizOffice is a Microsoft product under development that is aimed at enabling a corporation to e-business-enable hundreds of trading partners in a quick, seamless fashion. Think of it as Microsoft Office made over into a business-information client.

Theres no word on how far down the development path BizOffice is, and Microsoft is not commenting, other than to say not to expect BizOffice in calendar 2002.

Once the product debuts, Microsoft is expected to position it as one of its next BizTalk Accelerators/Solutions. Accelerators are a set of tools, test data and methodologies designed to simplify deploying BizTalk in specific vertical markets. Microsoft already offers several different Accelerators: for health care, RosettaNet users, suppliers and Internet businesses.

Sources say one of the key minds behind BizOffice was Milan Shah, development manager for Microsofts BizTalk Accelerators. Shah, a nine-year Microsoft veteran, had worked on everything from the Windows distributed file system, to the e-mail transport system that underlies Exchange Server. Shah recently quit Microsoft to join enterprise instant-messenging vendor IMLogic on June 3 as VP of engineering. Shah did not return a call requesting comment on BizOffice.

Given Shahs background and the way BizTalk Server is evolving, its likely that BizOffice will make use of the recently introduced SEED technology that is part of BizTalk Server 2002.

SEED, or Super Effective and Efficient Delivery system, allows users to create an XML package of data that includes the document interfaces that business partners need to quickly and efficiently connect to each other, via BizTalk. SEED packages can be created once and then deployed to many trading partners. Microsoft bills SEED as a way to decrease the setup time required by trading partners and decreasing required partner testing time.

While it hasnt publicly talked about BizOffice, Microsoft showed how Office could be used in this type of scenario back at the launch of Office XP in May, 2001. During one of the customer demos at the launch event, Microsoft showed how it had helped Ford Motor Co. to design a supply-chain integration solution using Office XP. Via the XML code built into Office XP (and particularly Excel 2002), Ford was able to notify component suppliers of any changes in demand, and suppliers could provide feedback on their ability to handle these changes, which was routed back to BizTalk Server.

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