Microsoft Untangles Business App Web

Unless you’re a professional Microsoft Watcher, you’re probably confused by all the business tools Microsoft has acquired over the years -- from Axtapa to Solomon to Great Plains to Navision -- and not a single name actually describes what the product does. Now get ready to be more confused because Microsoft is renaming each and every one of these applications, which will all be known as Dynamics something or other (Axtapa, for instance, becomes Dynamics AX).

The new names coincide with a near total rewrite of these high-end applications, formerly code-named "Project Green," where Axtapa, Solomon, Great Plains and Navision will ultimately all be blended into one. The apps are designed for ease of use and will look and feel a lot like Office.

Midsize Businesses To Get Their Own Taste of Longhorn Server
Microsoft is planning a special Longhorn server bundle called Centro for companies with less than 500 PCs. Like the Windows Server 2003 midsize bundle, Centro is expected to include multiple server OS licenses along with messaging, management and client licenses. If pricing stays the same, you can pick up this bundle for a little less than a low-end Kia.

Coming Soon on DVD -- Exchange 12: the Sequel
Years ago, PC makers gave up those terrible 5.25" floppies (which were truly floppy) for 3.5-inchers, and later moved to CDs. Now it looks like DVD will soon rule the day, at least for Exchange customers. Microsoft has revealed that DVD is the only media for Exchange 12. DVDs hold some seven times as much data as CDs. Hmm … sounds like Exchange 12 is going to be a monster!

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Gaga for Google
The two founders of Google have topped Vanity Fair magazine’s list of "New Establishment" powerbrokers -- all the more reason for Redmond to take aim at the search engine superstars.

Yahoo Helps China Imprison Journalist
According to a media watchdog, Yahoo turned over to China the identity of one its e-mail users, a former journalist, who was promptly arrested and sentenced to 10 years for disclosing state secrets. Are the "secrets" -- information on press restrictions -- worth a decade in the hoosegow?

Letters: Massachusetts and Office
Today, we got a decent batch of letters talking about Massachusetts’s decision to dump Microsoft Office and describing what customers want to see from Office in the future. [Editor’s note: Some of the letters have been edited for space and consistency.]

This reader doesn’t think Massachusetts made the right decision.

"Anyone who dumps MS Office dumps himself. The entire state of Massachusetts is doomed if they drop Office. Same goes for the Windows operating system.

No other desktop application in the universe offers the features of Office, and only Microsoft could have thought of these features. Now that MS has brought out these cool features everyone else copies and tries to make them different, but without MS inventing those features no one else could’ve thought of them. It's worth every penny and more!"
-- Loris

But other readers think Office could be better.

"I and pretty much all of my users and managers want to be able to use Outlook in a more productive manner. We want to be able to have the personal folders and the calendar separate from each other. For example, we would like to have all e-mail go to a personal folder on [the users’] local hard drives but have their calendar stay out on the Exchange server so their administrative assistants can manage the calendar and we can more easily schedule meetings.

We would also like to see Outlook do what GroupWise does, which is have the ability to schedule recurring e-mails so that an e-mailed reminder can be sent out on a scheduled basis. I was doing this with GroupWise at least 10 years ago. Why hasn't Microsoft managed to catch up"
-- Annett

Cheaper might be good.

"I definitely want to see [Microsoft Office] cost less -- A LOT less. More features don't really bother me as what it's got is good enough for now. As for the competition, FINALLY, somebody is starting to get the ball rolling, Congrats, Massachusetts!"
-- Peter

Out with the new, back with the old, says this reader.

"The best that can happen to Office is to take it back a version or two and freeze it. Well, Word, anyway. It seems to have become harder to use rather than better.

1) Why does anyone need yet another ‘version’ of a word processor?
2) Why does anyone need yet another ‘version’ of a spreadsheet?
3) Etc., etc.

I say we all ‘just say no.’ No more ‘upgrades,’ ‘new versions’ or whatever [Microsoft’s] marketing department comes up with. The plain simple fact is no one needs a new Word, Excel, Access or any of it. None of us fully use the capabilities [those products have] today.

Does the emperor need new clothes? Or have we seen too much already?"
-- Michael

And more specifically:

"As if there wasn't an already long list of wants and fixes, I'm going to add mine here:

1. Could you get Office to stop thinking for me and auto-format everything I touch?! Nine times outta 10, it gets it wrong.
2. Stop asking if you can be Default everything. If I want you to open a file extension type, I'll let you know.
3. Help files, oh my god -- must you go online every time I go to read a Help file? This is really annoying when you work somewhere that requires you to enter a username and password every time you connect. This doesn't help productivity.
4. If you’re going to improve anything and make it smarter, work on the context in the spell-check. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen on professional postings where the incorrect word was used. Granted that is the stupid/lazy side of the equation. God forbid anyone proofread anything.
5. Dumb it down out of the box. If I want something, I'll add it. The only thing I'd like to see turned on by default is the Spelling and Grammar checker and the auto-save (set it to every two minutes, because people don't save their stuff!).
6. Office clipboard -- don't add the same thing over. Either that or make the item capacity larger. Instead of 24 items, make it 50 or so.
7. [Microsoft] added Office collaboration and that jumped the price up to $200 or so. Come on, guys. That's a car payment nowadays.
8. Document protection -- oh, this is a really great feature, but you have to have their server platform to implement it. Sure everyone in the world has that kind of budget. EVERYONE should be able to use this out of the box. Just a thought.
9. Hey, here's a really great idea: If you come out with a new version of anything, don't mess with the GUI!
10. FrontPage -- how about a WYSIWYG for whichever browser is going to pull up your page. I mean, even in IE, what you see in FrontPage doesn't translate to that in IE. If writing great software is your passion, let's see a bit more of it. I’m very passionate about all things IT so I wouldn’t have sat around idle, not innovating. Hmm … tabbed browsing?"
-- Howard

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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