Raikes: Whats Next for the Microsoft Office Unit?

With former Office engineering lead Steven Sinofsky going to Windows, what's the Office unit planning to do? Microsoft Business Division President Jeff Raikes talks futures. (Microsoft Watch)

DALLAS—While Microsofts Office team will miss Office development chief Senior Vice President Steven Sinofsky, the unit wont go astray without its head taskmaster.

Microsoft Business Division Jeff Raikes—who addressed the 7,000 Microsoft customers and partners attending the companys Convergence conference here on March 26—told Microsoft Watch that he expects to announce Sinofskys successor some time "in the next few months." While Raikes wouldnt name names, the new Office chief will come from inside Microsoft, he said.

Raikes is working hand-in-hand with Sinofsky on insuring a smooth transition, he said. He added that he has been discussing with Sinofsky for over a year on what Sinofskys next assignment inside the company would be.

Raikes also bristled at characterization of Office 2007 as running late. Late last week, Microsoft officials acknowledged that the company is planning to launch the next major version of Office in January 2007, simultaneously with Windows Vista, rather than in 2006, as originally planned.

"The Office development schedule is exactly the same as it was a month ago," Raikes told press and analysts during a Q&A session at Convergence. "The business launch is exactly the same; its out in the second half of this year. The consumer launch: There is a desire to do that with Vista."

Microsoft said last week that Office 2007 will be released to manufacturing in October 2006.

Raikes also emphasized that a relatively small percentage of Offices sales come from the retail/consumer channel.

Raikes acknowledged that "Weve learned a lot from Steven (Sinofsky). Weve had seven (Office) releases in 12 years—a history of great products delivered on time."

But will the "special sauce" that enabled Office to ship on a regularly and relatively timely manner continue to exist without the lead chef?

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