Gates Touts Office 2003s Connectivity, Collaboration

At the Office 2003 rollout event on Tuesday, Bill Gates demonstrated the new features of the productivity suite, and gave special kudos to its updated Outlook module.

NEW YORK—Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday launched more products in a single day than at any event in its history, said chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates at the global launch of Office System 2003.

Addressing the hundreds of attendees here in a presentation entitled "Great Moments at Work," Gates said customers had told Microsoft they wanted advances on the e-mail front and with regard to their cellular phones and other devices.

"This Office suite can do more for productivity improvement than any other product in the world," he said, adding that the next frontier was being driven by this new release, which was driven by people working together, sharing information and collaborating.


This release was about more than just products; it also provided servers to which the products connect, including the Windows SharePoint Server and services like Live Meetings and the ability to connect Outlook to the Hotmail back end, he said.

"There are also some big advances in the way Microsoft has packaged the products, with extra modules like the Visio and Project capabilities. These are being integrated in new ways," Gates said.


Dieter Reinersmann, a CIO at Siemens, one of the largest companies in the world, then took the stage to promote the advantages of Office. Under previous versions of Office, Siemens had a solution built on top of Office, but the end user had been locked into a specific work flow and often had to re-enter information, so it was used only by high-trained staff only, he said.

"The system also had a very high maintenance cost, which has been reduced by using Office 2003. We were also able to implement a smart document solution that is fully integrated and automatically extracts data from various databases, resulting in an annual development saving of $350,000 a year and a reduction in field maintenance by some 80 percent," he.

As a result, Siemens had decided to deploy Office throughout its 330,000 desktops," he said.

This example, Gates said, underscored the fact that a lot of different things in Office were all designed with one thing in mind: collaboration, before showing a video from Land America, which highlighted the benefits of Office System to its staff.

But when Jeff Raikes, the group vice president of productivity and business services, took to the stage, he confirmed what many already know, that "software today is not yet good enough. In fact what we see here today is an incredible new opportunity. Many of us at Microsoft have been using Office 2003 for a full year," he said.

Raikes also referred to the study by Navigant Technologies Inc., which looked at just 14 Office users. He also neglected to mention that the study was commissioned and paid for by Microsoft.

He also said there were more than 250 partners with more than 500 Microsoft Office solutions ready to go.

Taking back center-stage, Gates told the audience that the innovations in Office came from collaboration, business process integration and efficiency. "Outlook is the most changed module that we have in Office 2003, and this alone makes the upgrade worth the investment. I was personally surprised by the great work the Outlook team did in innovating," Gates said.

In a demonstration of how he used the Office System, Gates used a Tablet PC running OneNote to show ink capabilities and how users can navigate around the documents and screens. Moving to a desktop machine with Outlook Web access, Gates said this was no longer a restrictive experience as it had a high percentage of the actual Outlook features.

Then, moving to Outlook itself, where the basic interface remained the same, Gates cited the larger reading pane that allowed better usage of screen space and mail content as evidence of advances.

New things would continue to be provided via the Office online Web site, including updates, he said, adding that this was also the first version of Office that did not go to the local files first, but went out online. This online connection would also be a significant component of Office going forward, Gates added.

Microsoft will also advertise Office on television for the first time in a decade, Gates said, before showing two 30-second spots.

"We will continue to let the user guide us down this path and to enable more great moments at work," he concluded.

Discuss this in the eWEEK forum.