It's about time for Microsoft to roll out the promised test version of its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) version 2. I'd bet we're going to see it about a week from now, on October 19.
At the very least, October 19 is likely to be the announcement date, I'm thinking.
Here's my train of thought: Microsoft execs have said throughout this past summer that a test build of the new BPOS would be available before the end of 2010. Microsoft's Office Division is planning to hold an even in San Francisco, hosted by new Office President Kurt DelBene and Chris Capossela, Senior Vice President, Information Worker Product Management Group (and the guy overseeing BPOS, among other Office products). The event on the 19th is for Bay Area press and analysts only, but will be Webcast, according to an invitation I received. While I'm making educated guesses, I'd also wager that Microsoft will announce that it is rebranding BPOS to "Union" at this event.
BPOS is Microsoft's alternative to Google Apps and IBM's LotusLive suite. The Redmondians have been putting more development and marketing muscle behind BPOS in recent months to fight its competitors, as well as to convince more Microsoft shops to move to the cloud.
Microsoft officials have been talking up for months the features and functionality that the company is rolling into BPOS v.Next, which is due out in final form next year. The new version of BPOS will include the individual elements of the BPOS suite -- Exchange Online, SharePoint Online,, Communications Online (now known as Lync Online) and Live Meeting -- to include functionality that Microsoft has shipped or will be shipping as part of the latest versions of its on-premises versions of these apps. Microsoft also has been adding incremental updates to BPOS, like the newly released health dashboard, in recent weeks. Among the most anticipated features in BPOS v.Next is support for Office Web Apps (via the new SharePoint Online), as well as multitenancy support (provided with the updated Exchange Online).
I've heard conflicting things about the future of Live Meeting -- something to which I've referred repeatedly as one of Microsoft's worst products. I'm hearing this conferencing service might still be in BPOS/Union, but in a completely rewritten form that doesn't use much, if any, of the code of previous Live Meeting releases. I've also heard Live Meeting will no longer exist as a separate product and be morphed into Lync. Microsoft officials declined to comment when I asked previously about the future of Live Meeting.
Microsoft also has been continuing to work on a BPOS Lite offering. Maybe more information on that will be forthcoming next week, as well? (I've heard from a number of Microsoft's channel partners who are worried about what margins will look like on that offering....)
The Softies are not commenting on what is on the October 19 agenda. Guess we'll see if my bets were on or off soon....