Microsoft Keeps Office 12 Cards Close at Dev Conference

The company gathers its system partners, ISVs and Office application developers to discuss how technology in Office System 2003, released more than a year ago, can be used to improve customer businesses.

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.

But attendees at the Microsoft Office System Developer Conference hoping to get the scoop on Office 12, the next version of the Office System under development, are going to be sorely disappointed.

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.

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