Office 2007 Hits the Road

After four long years, Microsoft finally delivered the long-awaited successor to Office 2003, namely Office System 2007. The new release, which made its formal debut along with business versions of Windows Vista and Exchange Server 2007, contains the most significant advances to Office in more than 10 years, according to company officials, and should help IT shops accelerate, or at least begin to piece together, a meaningful collaboration strategy.

The man in charge of Office is Kurt DelBene, Microsoft corporate vice president of the Office Business Platform Group in the company's Business Division. DelBene sat down with Redmond Editor Ed Scannell immediately after the New York launch on Nov. 30 to discuss some of the improvements in Office 2007, his expectations for its short-term success, and how the suite factors into Microsoft's sometimes confusing but am-bitious enterprise collaboration strategy.

Q. What influence will Office 2007 have on people looking to establish or expand their collaboration strategies?

A. SharePoint is doing well in the collaboration space already and so I really see Office 2007 proving to be the next major release that solidifies that trend even more substantially. There are some key investments in collaboration [that] we think will drive some very strong adoption. Customers seem very excited about blogs and wikis and are wondering what they might mean for their organizations. I think the offline capabilities of taking SharePoint content into Outlook or into Groove are interesting to them as well. Collaboration needs will drive a great deal of upgrades [of Office 2007] as well.

Q. Some IT shops have trouble deciphering Microsoft's collaboration strategy, especially how Unified Communications and voice technologies fit with Office 2007, SharePoint and Groove. Can you clarify?

A. There are three angles to Unified Communications that are important. One is the importance of "presence," the ability to know if someone is online or offline and to have that in the context of what they are working on. We can take that little presence icon and infuse it in the e-mail you get, or place it in Team Spaces where you are working with others on a project. Think of it as a launching-off point for communicating with other people about a topic in place of back-and-forth e-mails. You can use presence as a way to move from one mode of communicating to another very seamlessly. And this is where voice over IP fits in well because you might want to call that person in some cases. Think of the address book in this coming world being all about presence icons for everyone you communicate with.

Kurt DelBene
Microsoft Corporate Vice President of the Office Business Platform Group Kurt DelBene believes Office 2007 adds several core capabilities that enhance Microsoft's collaboration strategy.

Q. What are the features that will convince larger IT shops to upgrade to Office 2007?

A. Certainly the enterprise content management features we have in SharePoint and the client software will be key drivers. The adoption of SharePoint has surpassed our expectations and consequently, there has been a lot of content placed onto SharePoint sites involving things like compliance. It's a natural extension to want to use the existing infrastructure to manage content. Similarly, on the Exchange side, the ability to manage e-mails and to have policy on filtering e-mail as it goes across transports is important. Having a holistic solution with the existing infrastructure you have standardized on is really big among customers. Also, I think people are excited about [Microsoft's] Unified Communications capabilities, this ability to have a single place to triage all of your communications in a simple way, or to have great mobility and access to messaging via mobile devices. I think the business intelligence capabilities will also appeal to people.

Q. What's your anticipation in terms of larger shops deploying both Vista and Office 2007 over the short term? Will most do both together or will they roll out Office first?

A. We see some people doing the Office apps separate from doing Vista, but they'll also have an upgrade plan for Vista. Then there are a number of people, who, when they get their new PCs, will want them pre-loaded with the current versions of Vista and Office. We did design Office 2007 to run well on Windows XP as well as Vista.

Q. What features will IT shops not be able to use in Office 2007 running under Windows XP?

A. Most of the functions will work. The benefits they won't get are the shared investments around security, but the core functions of Office 2007 tend to work on both Vista and XP. There are only subtle differences.

Q. Any features that didn't get into Office 2007 and that you will include in Office 14?

A. Well, if you look at the areas we invested in with this release, they are all pretty formidable and big areas, like enterprise content management and business intelligence. I feel good about the amount of functionality and the core scenarios we have enabled on an end-to-end basis in the areas we chose to invest in. I feel good that the release is a holistic one. We do start from a scenario basis quite often [with the Office desktop suite]. For example, with enterprise content management, we brought in some of our key users and had them talk to us about how they create high-value documents and map them from cradle to grave. We really focused on how we could facilitate the offering for these high-value documents right from the beginning of their creation to where they are aged out of the organization.

Q. When do you expect the first Service Pack for Office 2007?

A. We have an historical frequency with which we do Service Packs for Office [typically Microsoft has delivered service packs for new releases 12 to 18 months after the initial release] and I don't have any reason to believe it will be any different this time. We've been very methodical about synchronizing the work on service packs with the work on developing new products.

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.


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