Microsoft Promises Big Makeover with Project 2010

Microsoft's Project 2010, the next version of its business project-management platform, is being touted by Redmond as a significant updating over Project 2007 and previous versions. In addition to being streamlined down to three editions, Project 2010 will also include a boosted degree of collaboration facility due to its being built on SharePoint Server 2010. Project 2010 will feature customizable workflow controls, enhanced business-intelligence tools and no more ActiveX dependency.

Microsoft announced during the Microsoft Project Conference on Sept. 16 that its upcoming Project 2010, the next iteration of its project-management platform, will be ready for public beta before the end of 2009, with full release set for the first half of 2010. In keeping with Microsoft's other upcoming Office-related products, Project 2010 will include functionality that allows a greater degree of collaboration over projects.

Unlike Project 2007, which featured four editions, Microsoft said Project 2010 will come in three flavors: Project Professional 2010, Project Standard 2010, and Project Server 2010.

By constructing this new version on the foundation of SharePoint Server 2010, Microsoft is seeking to offer a heightened degree of collaboration for business end-users, with streamlined deployment and integration with Microsoft Outlook, Exchange and Office.

Microsoft also is aiming to integrate boosted reporting and business intelligence aspects into Project 2010 to allow businesses to more closely monitor project status, as well as tinkering with the end-user experience; Project 2010 integrates aspects of the Microsoft Office Fluent user interface, particularly the Ribbon, which allows faster access to commands. Workflow controls are customizable.

ActiveX dependency has also been stripped out of the release, apparently with an eye toward enhanced security, and - as with many upcoming products from Redmond - there will be 64-bit compatibility.

Those wanting to register for the public beta can sign up at this site.

Microsoft has repeatedly indicated that the upcoming versions of its productivity projects will include major enhancements, many of them with an eye toward allowing access to applications from a variety of devices. Microsoft plans on offering Office 2010 as a free online service to Microsoft Live subscribers, in a move widely seen as a direct challenge to Google Apps and other free cloud-based applications. The stripped-down Web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote will be more accessible through smartphones, allowing workers on the move to make lightweight edits from their mobile browser.

During its Worldwide Partner Confernece in New Orleans in July, Microsoft indicated that Office 2010, SharePoint Server 2010, Visio 2010 and Project 2010 had all reached the technical preview engineering milestone.