Office 12: Microsoft Pumps Up Productivity Platform

Redmond hopes developers will beef up its business suite with new client-server, data and interface capabilities. The tools to accomplish this transformation will be demonstrated at its upcoming professional developers confab.

While Office 12, Microsofts next-generation desktop suite, is not expected to hit Beta 1 until later this fall, Microsoft officials are set to show off a number of its components at the companys annual Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in mid-September.

Recent developer conferences have focused almost exclusively on operating system and tools futures. But this years will include dozens of tracks aimed at Office developers and users.

At the conference, Microsoft officials are set to show off some of the individual Office 12 desktop applications; InfoPath and Excel server capabilities; SharePoint "Version 3" futures; and new functionality on the Groove collaboration front.

Company officials are expected to outline Microsofts updated enterprise-content-management strategy at the confab. And Senior Vice President of Office, Steven Sinofsky, is slated to deliver the September 14 PDC keynote.

Microsoft is expected to emphasize Office 12s role not just as a family of products for customers, but also as a foundational platform for developers.

/zimages/3/28571.gifOpen Source Development Labs CEO Stuart Cohen tells eWEEK why he nixed Microsofts offer for joint research; and he calls for a Linux version of MS Office. Click here to read more.

"I think the Information Worker group is serious about trying to get developers to use Office 12 as a platform, and they are continuing to invest a good deal of developer time and money for that goal," said Rob Helm, director of research with Directions on Microsoft. "They are getting traction: Winning SAP for the Mendocino project was a major coup. The 2005-2006 wave of Office developer releases are all going to make significant improvements."

Microsoft has its challenges on this front, Helm admitted. "The catch, I believe is that Information Worker [division] might be investing too much in developer platforms. Namely, there might be too many different Office developer platforms."

Helm cites as examples Microsofts Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO), the Office Task Pane and Smart Tag/Windows Forms application programming interfaces (APIs) and the Microsoft Information Bridge Framework technology, among other Office-development tools that Microsoft is touting.

Plus, "Office isnt the only game in town for developers. On forms, for example, developers could also use straight Windows Forms, ASP.NET Web Forms, or the new Windows Presentation Framework forms technology coming in Windows Vista," Helm said.

/zimages/3/28571.gifRead more here about OpenOffice.orgs release of a new beta of its Version 2.0 productivity suite.

"I think the Information Worker unit has to explain to Office developers how to make long-term platform choices, by explaining how Office developer platforms are going to eventually converge with one another, and with the other developer platforms at Microsoft," Helm continued. "Until thats explained, its going to be difficult for developers to justify Office development for strategic applications that they expect to stick around for some time.

/zimages/3/28571.gifRead the full story on Microsoft Watch: Microsoft Set to Reveal More Office 12 Tidbits

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