At the Microsoft Profession Developers Conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft announced updates to the company’s upcoming Windows Vista and Office platforms, which he said would enable tighter application integration.
Microsoft chair and chief software architect Bill Gates told the crowd that Vista and Office 12 combined would take software to new heights, in terms of what users can do with it and the applications developers could build.
In late 2006 when these products come out, they will be a wave, Mr Gates said during his keynote speech. The vision here is about connecting people to the information they care about.
Connecting software from one company to software from another company is still far too difficult, Mr Gates later said.
He also said the launch of Vista and Office 12 would come with the largest marketing campaign in Microsoft’s history. It should be noted that Vista, originally codenamed Longhorn, failed to reach several developmental milestones and if it does make it to market late next year it would come five years after the most recent Windows XP was released.
Office 12 would represent the most significant update to software in the past decade, Mr Gates said. He demonstrated, for the first time, the software’s redesigned user interface, which is geared to be more results-oriented than before.
The new interface does away with traditional toolbars and menus and instead has a set of graphical command tabs, which contain features that are tailored to what the user needs when they need it, and disappear when irrelevant. The goal is to make it simpler for users to find and use the capabilities they need.
The program also promises easier and faster access to features in other programs, such as PowerPoint, Word and Excel, in order to create feature-rich, professional looking documents, presentations and spreadsheets. Live previews in each program have been added so users can quickly view changes, such as font and table changes, before they are made.
The new features would enable greater productivity to users, Mr Gates said. But that’s only half the story. The expansion of server and developer capabilities in Office 12 are a great illustration of what is possible with today’s platform. He said that these improvements would enable greater group and organizational productivity and broaden developers’ opportunities.
Office 12 is slated to ship in the second half of next year. A limited-release beta is expected this fall.
Vista will have a couple of user interface enhancements too. It will boast a Windows Sidebar, which is similar to the Widgets feature found on Apple’s Mac OS X, that has gadgets to show mini-applications, such as a slideshow, on the right-hand side of the screen. Developers would be able to build gadgets of their own that could be added to the Sidebar.
Also, RSS has been integrated throughout Office 12 applications and Vista so users can read RSS feeds without having to switch to a different application.
Microsoft also announced yesterday its Vista Community Technology Preview program, which includes interim updates of the progress of OS test builds between official beta releases.
The early, so-called Beta 1, version of Vista was released in July. Developers at PDC this week will be handed the first of the Vista preview releases.
The Vista CTP build will boast new features, including visualization and organization features, Microsoft said. It also will enable developers to use WinFX, the new programming model for Vista, to build applications that use the Windows Presentation Foundation and Windows Communication Foundation.
Also, the Language Integrated Query (LINQ) Project, which is a set of language extensions to C# and Visual Basic and a unified programming model that extends the .NET Framework to offer integrated querying for objects, databases and XML. LINQ enables developers to write queries for accessing data natively in C# or Visual Basic without having to use other languages, such as Structured Query Language or XQuery.
Microsoft also announced a new $100m co-marketing effort with ISVs to support partner programs for Vista. Participating ISVs would have access to new distribution channels, co-marketing and financial incentives, Microsoft said.