Microsoft Office 12 news (UpDated 12th July 2005) - jiuk

  • Large numbers of customers are not upgrading to later editions of Office, like Office 2003. Microsoft claims a total of 600 million Office users, but analysts estimate 30% are still running Office 1997, having decided later editions Office 2000, Office XP and Office 2003 don't offer enough; the prime reason cited in polls is that Office 97 is "good enough" for these users' needs. That's a worrying fact for Microsoft, now working on the successor to Office 2003, codenamed Office 12, which is due in the second half of 2006.

    Office 12, demonstrated at Microsoft's partner conference, will be the first version of Office to feature peer-to-peer technology from Groove Networks, acquired this year. Other areas of focus for Office 12 are browser-based forms, InfoPath development and integration with Outlook, improved search and information management tools, and content management tools.

    "A lot of people don't understand how Microsoft Office has changed in last four to five years," Chris Capossela corporate vice president for the information worker product management group told delegates on Friday morning. "We've gone beyond traditional applications of Windows and Excel on desktop and expanded beyond improving personal productivity."

    "The number one competition in the Office business is this perception that old versions of Office or cloned versions of Office are good enough and you don't need the latest software for end users or information workers. We are on a mission to show people the work place has changed," Capossela said.

    To shepherd ISVs toward the legacy Office market Microsoft is increasing its level of investment. Microsoft is investing $300m (£166m) in Office marketing for fiscal 2006 and expanding the number of field sales people from 450 to more than 1,000. Capossela said Microsoft wants to quadruple the size of its partner network from 240,000 companies to move users off of legacy versions of Office.

  • Re: Microsoft Office 12 news

    When Office 12 ships in a year or so, it will have a new look and feel aimed at exposing a user's favourite features. Microsoft is working on a "ribbon" concept in which the user would get a different strip or ribbon of icons depending on the task at hand—whether it's a simple note, a fancy document, a graphical presentation, multimedia or a spreadsheet, said a source familiar with the plans. That ribbon would expose only the tools relevant to the current job.

    Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates alluded to this work, without using the "R word," at the company's CEO Summit in May. To ease the creation of professional-looking documents, he said: "We're making some changes in our user interface in Office to expose, make it easy to find the functionality, make it far more visual, [so] that you get all the power that's there in the tool."

    Microsoft Group Product Manager Dan Leach said they are "thinking about how to make features and functionality more discoverable in the next wave of Office products." He said they would take cues from the current Outlook 2003's "Quick Flags," search folders and three-column view but cautioned it is too early to talk about specific changes.

    Office ribbons would be another attack on the problem of 'icon abuse'. Most stats state that users actually use less than 20 percent—and probably less than 10 percent—of the functions they have at their disposal. That leads to very basic questions: What's the point of packing new features into a product if they never see the light of day? What's the point of upgrading to the next Office if you don't even use a fraction of your current Office 2003 or Office XP or Office 2000?

    Clearly, Microsoft needs to solve that conundrum. If you are someone who immediately switches off 'personalised menus' that hide lesser-user options, ribbons sound like a nightmare. But apparently the thinking is that the ribbon interface is "a nice UI solution because they're running out of real estate with all their task panes and menu layers."

    One source said that it was surprising that, aside from a few focus groups and NDA briefings, Microsoft has not been more forthcoming about Office 12 specifics. "Microsoft has a lot of Enterprise Agreements up for renewal, and Office is the reason most people renew. If you're looking into renewing for three years, they need to sell this thing now," he said.

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