May 16, 2005 4:27 PM PDT

Office 12 to ease lines of communication

SAN FRANCISCO--Recognizing a shift in the way people work, Microsoft is putting more emphasis on collaboration in the next version of Office.

The Redmond, Wash., software giant has gotten some help in that effort from Groove Networks, the Ray Ozzie-led company that Microsoft acquired earlier this year, strategy executive Bill Hilf said at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo here on Monday.

One of the first steps in working with colleagues is finding out which co-workers are actually available. In that regard, Microsoft plans to expand its current work on corporate instant messaging and add support for Internet telephony.

The ability to handle voice over Internet Protocol technology is "one of the core features (Microsoft is) building into the next version of Office," said Hilf, Microsoft's director of platform technology strategy. The company also plans to continue adding more server-based products to the Office family of products, he said.

Microsoft has said that Office 12, the next version of its flagship productivity software, will ship next year. However, the company has yet to discuss most details about what will go into the software.

The company has said it plans to significantly expand its use of Extensible Markup Language, or XML, as a means of exchanging data.

One of the reasons that Microsoft continues to eye new server products, Hilf said, is the fact that many companies use Office for far more than the kind of general productivity tasks originally envisioned for the product.

"I can't tell you how many shops I go to that use Excel for everything--accounting, payroll," Hilf said.

He declined to say whether an Excel server would be among the new software added.

To get a good understanding of where Microsoft is headed with Office, Hilf suggested taking a look at Microsoft Office Communicator 2005, an instant messaging add-on to Office that is in beta testing.

The desktop program, which connects to Microsoft's Live Communications Server software, helps people get a variety of information about how best to communicate with co-workers. For example, out-of-office messages pop up automatically, as does a user's IM presence information. If companies integrate the software with their traditional or Internet telephony gear, workers can also start phone calls through their PC and redirect incoming calls when they are going to be away from their desk.

The final version of Office Communicator 2005 is due for release by the end of June. Pricing and other details have yet to be announced.

6 comments

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Battle Lines Being Drawn!
To the extent that Office 12 which Microsoft is putting more emphasis on collaboration in this version of Office and which will be coming up against the likes of IBM's IBM Workplace Collaboration Services: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.lotus.com/products/product5.nsf/wdocs/workplacehome" target="_newWindow">http://www.lotus.com/products/product5.nsf/wdocs/workplacehome</a> the battle lines could certainly be drawn where Workplace Collaboration Services is a single product that provides a full range of integrated ready-to-use communication and collaboration tools that enable people to do their jobs more effectively  anytime, anywhere. With personal and "professional" interests - Are there any bets!

;-)
Posted by (187 comments )
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here's an almost dead cert bet
Microsoft's Office Communicator 2005 will open enough security holes to keep us all entertained until Longhorn gets launched.
Posted by (21 comments )
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Battle lines? I don't think so. Sales pitch? YES!!
Sheldon, why do I get the distinct impression you work for IBM on their Workplace Collaboration Services projects?

Collaboration software is BULLS HIT. Every company I've seen that uses Notes or Outlook, was basically wasting 100s of 1,000s of $s per year on the licensing of nothing more than email software.

Other than email, people like to use the calendar ... usually, to schedule meetings. It's ironic. You would think that "collaboration software" is supposed to reduce face-to-face meetings and conference calls, but it actually increases them.
Posted by Eggs Ackley (34 comments )
Link Flag
So far...
.. MS Office has been a reasonably useful program. Word has
serious delusions of grandeur about becoming the total
publishing program for the world. Unfortunately, Word also
became a serious versin of bloatware in the process (maybe
move over, Adobe?)

And now MS is talking about adding even more 'integrated'
features to the new Office, when it already has too many. I just
wish that MS had at least some understanding of 'modular'
program structure, with features that can be added or removed
to configure the application properly for the user.

I have already stripped Adobe applications from my computers
because they were inefficient bloastware designs. I just may have
to avoid future versions of Office for the same reason.

For some, the bloatware designs may be a good thing.
Obviously, some people are still buying Adobe products. And
others will cheerfully pay for MS's latest 'integrated' product. I
prefer what you could call 'intelligent design', by people who are
more concerned with customer needs than with grandiose
corporate wet dreams.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
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Not a new ploy
This is their attempt to close the loop on open source alternatives -
tie everything in the suite to a Windows server, and conveniently
leave out any capability to connect alternative suites to those
servers. Nothing new here...
Posted by chassoto--2008 (71 comments )
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