Microsoft has issued the first press announcement on Office 2007 (formerly known as Office 12), to be released towards the end of 2006. The offerings truly break the link with the old days when Office was just a collection of point products – the 2007 edition is a tool suite for information creation, management, and collaboration.
The product line-up includes a new Enterprise edition that brings into the suite the recently acquired peer-2-peer corporate networking product, Groove. As an efficient collaboration tool for file sharing, Groove reinforces a key message in Office 2007 that the future is all about exploiting the web.
That Office 2007 breaks with the past notion of an Office suite is shown by the enterprise applications addressed by the Office 2007 Server: business intelligence, business process management, integrated search, portal, content management, and collaboration. This is an ambitious product set designed to weave the Microsoft platform into the heart of the web-enabled enterprise and move beyond the (legacy) desktop.
As part of this strategy, Microsoft is moving forward with extracting maximum capabilities out of the SharePoint Server with tools that cater for business users and web designers. FrontPage is to be gradually phased out and replaced by SharePoint Designer 2007 (earmarked for release in the second half of 2006) and Expression Web Designer. End-users will be able to build workflows and applications with SharePoint Designer without programming, while web designers will find Expression better suited to their needs, offering coupling with Visual Studio.NET.
Underlying these tools is Microsoft’s .NET based Rich Internet Applications capabilities, providing the performance and look-and-feel of desktop-like applications but delivered via the web browser. This is Microsoft’s competing position against the blossoming AJAX movement (despite Microsoft offering its own AJAX and ASP.NET 2.0 tools in its Atlas project, aimed very much at the developer community).
To support Office 2007 two new ‘speciality’ servers are to be launched: Microsoft Office Forms Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Project Portfolio Server 2007. The suite editions are also to be extended not just with Enterprise but with an intermediate Professional Plus to sit between Enterprise and Professional.
But the highlight is undoubtedly the full Enterprise edition, targeting today’s mobile worker, and enabling collaboration with Groove. The future will see this evolution continue as the integrated capabilities of what were long ago point products are becoming seamless web-enabled, networked tools – for instance 2007 will feature XML file formats across the whole product line.
Office is being written off due to free open source alternatives encroaching on the point products, and the demise of the desktop due to the web – by embracing the web and moving Office into the enterprise Microsoft is showing there’s steam yet in Office.