WWF to Be in Vista Next Year

New features for IE 7.0 beta 2; more in store for Office 12.

Stop the presses. Windows Workflow Foundation, the newest of the next-generation Windows infrastructure pillars, is running early.

WWF, Microsofts combined human- and machine-level workflow subsystem, was expected to debut as part of Longhorn Server in 2007, at the earliest, Microsoft officials said this past spring. But at the companys Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles last month, Microsoft released to attendees the Beta 1 bits of WWF and announced that the technology was on track to be incorporated into Windows Vista, the version of the Windows client due next year.

In April, Microsofts co-president of the Platforms Products & Services Division, Jim Allchin, said that the workflow subsystem—which has gone by a number of different code names, including WinOE and Windows Workflow Services—would not make it into Longhorn/Vista. But the WWF team pushed to achieve the required quality levels and qualified for inclusion in the Windows Vista CTP (Community Technology Preview) 1 release, which Microsoft distributed to show attendees, said Scott Woodgate, group product manager with Microsofts Connected Systems Division.

Microsoft officials also revealed at the show that they are planning to back-port WWF to Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Windows Server 2003, just as they are doing with the other key Windows foundational technologies, including Windows Communications Foundation (WCF, code-named Indigo), Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF, code-named Avalon) and, most likely, WinFS.

New hints on Office 12

While declining to talk packaging specifics, Microsoft executives recently offered more hints on the companys Office 12 server plans. During his keynote address at the PDC, Microsoft Senior Vice President of Microsoft Office Steven Sinofsky didnt reveal specifics on Microsofts plans to add new servers to the Office 12 family of products, which are due to ship in the second half of next year. Instead, Sinofsky and other Microsoft Office team executives indirectly addressed the companys Office Server plans.

Microsoft partner sources have said they expect Microsoft to field new Excel Server 12 and InfoPath Server 12 products, among other potential server offerings. And at the PDC, Microsoft officials demonstrated new Office 12 scenarios, such as Excel services storing and retrieving spreadsheets running on a server. Microsoft officials showed a similar scenario on the InfoPath front. Office 12 users will be able to access and store electronic forms via a SharePoint server on the back end and view them from inside an application or even a Web browser.

During his demonstration, Sinofsky told attendees that, in terms of the companys Office 12 server investments, "Windows SharePoint Services is the core platform element we build on."

With Office 12 servers, Microsoft is aiming squarely at the ECM (Enterprise Content Management), or document-life-cycle, space, said Microsoft officials. To deliver an end-to-end ECM solution, Microsoft will make sure Office on the desktop is even more tightly integrated with current and future Office servers. Among the desktop elements Microsoft is more tightly tying to the servers are Forms services and Excel services, Sinofsky said.

Delivering the IE Developer Toolbar

The Internet Explorer team is slowly but steadily delivering on its promises. While there was very little new in the IE 7.0 bits that were bundled into the Windows Vista CTP 1 release that went out two weeks ago, the team has lots of new features and functionality set for IE 7.0 Beta 2. And last week, the team rolled out a new IE Developer Toolbar, designed to expose new features for designing Web pages. As we noted recently, the IE team isnt the only Microsoft group looking to expose its interfaces to developers. The MSN division is doing the same.

Mary Jo Foley keeps a constant eye on Microsoft at her Microsoft-watch.com site.