BitDepth 554 - December 12

Microsoft's new business products are an intriguing upgrade for business users...
BitDepth #554
New Office tools for business
Julie Larson-Green, Corporate Vice President, Windows Experience Program demos new features of Windows Vista at a pre-launch presentation for Latin American journalists at New York's Marriot Marquis Hotel.

What came through clearly in the briefing sessions and at the formal launch to business of Microsoft's Vista operating system and Office 2007 productivity suite was a sense of reserve.
Julie Larson-Green, Corporate Vice President, Windows Experience Program Management spoke briefly about the development of the new Aero interface, showing wild versions of the graphical user interface, but eventually pruned her presentation down to the practical usability enhancements that have been built into the new product.

All through the presentations, including Kurt DelBene's intriguing discussion of how the new systemwide search has been leveraged into server, e-mail and legacy database resources and Dave Thompson's intriguing glimpse into an Exchange mail system that is accessible by wireless PDA's and voice commands over a telephone, the emphasis was on the practical, not on fun.
It isn't really surprising, though. At the end of January, Microsoft will launch Vista again, on a scale that hasn't been made clear, but this time to the millions of customers who currently cannot walk into a BestBuy or CompUSA to buy a boxed copy for their computers.
Motivating that customer base will call for the kind of sizzle that makes people want to spend a couple of hours upgrading their system software or buy a whole new computer to enjoy the new features of this new Windows operating system.

The November release of the Vista operating system and Office suite was targeted to enterprise customers, the users who will get these products delivered to their desktops by IT professionals tasked with distributing the products in massive roll-outs, tying the new services together and training millions of end users how to make the most of the upgrade.

In support of the upgrade that enterprise customers will face, more than two-dozen other complementary products were also introduced at the business launch, most of them almost stealthily.
These products will make sense to few end users, since they engage much of the power built into the enterprise editions of Office and Vista in the backoffice, server space area which should, in a perfect world, be invisible to most users.

So most Windows users and readers of this column won't hear much about products like Windows Rights Management Services, Office Forms Server 2007 or SQL Server 2005 Data Mining Add-ins for Office 2007; but these are exactly the type of products that get IT pros faced with massive data flows and interactions all excited with a funny glint in their eyes.

For everyday computer users, Windows Vista is a good looking operating system with a sturdier backbone built into it to face a world of malicious attacks. Microsoft's Mike Sievert, Corporate Vice President, Windows Client Marketing, noted that 78 percent of organisations are hit by viruses and 37 percent of them have had unauthorized access to their systems. New backoffice products such as the Forefront security software and new safeguards built into Vista itself make it harder for sneaky code to run without alerts springing up to warn users that something is amiss.

There's a lot more utility built into both the new OS and into Office. The ribbon, a tabbed strip of tools that replaces the old drop down menus is the most striking thing about the new suite.
In his address at the Nasdaq launch, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO noted (even as he admitted that the story was probably apocryphal) that Bill Gates congratulated the team on the "new" features he found in Excel using the ribbon which had been in the product for years.

Office 2007 is available for all users now, but for the Windows faithful (including five million beta testers who downloaded the software) champing at the bit to put this new system to use on freshly hotrodded systems, there is still seven weeks of patient waiting ahead.
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