While Microsoft has begun to divulge details about the next version of its Windows cash cow, company officials have maintained almost total silence about the next version of its other big money-maker: Microsoft Office. So it seemed like a good time to check in with my sources and see if there was any new info on Office 14.
Here's what is known, at this point:
- The next version of Office is codenamed Office 14
- A private Technical Adoption Program (TAP) alpha test-build of Office 14 -- at least until recently -- was slated for November or December 2008
- Microsoft officials have been dropping hints over the past year that Office 14 would ship in 2009
- Office 14 will include a local Office client, a server (SharePoint) and Office Web applications components
Microsoft officials are continuing to decline to comment on Office 14's timetable or feature list. Nonetheless, there have been a few bits of information about O14 which have gone public. Among them:
- Office 14 will include more "ribbonized" versions of the core set of client apps
- The Web applications will go to a limited number of non-Microsoft testers before the end of this calendar year. (A broader test build of Office Web apps won't happen until 2009, and the testing program for these Webified Office apps won't be tied to the rest of the Office 14 beta.)
- Master data management (MDM) will be "aligned with"the Office 14 release in some way
I've been asking various sources of mine what else they've heard and/or are hoping will be part of Office 14.
I've heard from a couple of sources that SharePoint 14 will include offline access and that this access most likely will be provided via the Groove Networks technology that Microsoft acquired in 2005 when it bought Ray Ozzie's company. Microsoft has been selling Groove and Groove Services since then, but has done little to tighten the integration between Groove and SharePoint. A recent query for survey participants by Microsoft user-research team shows that Microsoft is definitely interested in this integration.
Janus Boye, an analyst with CMS Watch, provided me with a list of some other "unconfirmed speculation" as to what might be part of SharePoint 14
- Native AJAX support
- Native Silverlight support
- Support for SQL server tables as SharePoint lists
- More business intelligence
- More Enterprise 2.0 / Web 2.0 capabilities
- Support for OpenXML
- Knowledge Network bundled into MOSS (Microsoft Office SharePoint Server)
- SharePoint as archive for Exchange
I've heard from a couple of sources that Office 14 still could be a 2009 deliverable, even though a first beta won't hit until some time next year. That kind of shortened testing timetable isn't unprecedented; with Office 2007, Microsoft launched the two public betas in rapid succession and got the final product out the door shortly thereafter. That said, I wouldn't be surprised to see Office 14 slip into early 2010, either. ("As soon as [former Office and now Windows chief Steven] Sinofsky moves to Windows, Office ends up late," one of my tipsters joked.)
Boye noted that "My numbers indicate that most SharePoint 2007 users are still not yet on SP (Service Pack) 1. With SP2 due out early 2009, it seems like SharePoint 2007 hit a unique window of opportunity for early widespread adoption, and I would expect SharePoint NEXT adoption to be more like the usual enterprise adoption of Microsoft products, where practitioners wait until SP1."
Any other Office 14 speculation or wish lists to share?