Whatever happened to Microsoft LOBi?

Whatever happened to Microsoft's LOBi (Line of Business Interoperability) strategy/technology/products? Weren't they supposed to be the answer to Microsoft developers' Office-integration prayers?

Hold onto your geek party hats. This is one of those confusing Microsoft-roadmap posts full of obscure acronyms that (hopefully) is worth wading through.

LOBi (Line of Business Interoperability): A toolkit? A service? Both? Neither? Whatever LOBi is/was, it was supposed to be key to Microsoft's quest to make Office more than just a suite of applications.

Office Business Applications (OBA) is the part of Microsoft charged with getting more developers to build applications that use Office and SharePoint Server as front ends for lots of different back-end systems (including Microsoft's own Dynamics CRM and ERP platforms, it seems). LOBi was one tool, albeit a very important one, in the OBA arsenal.

Chris Capossela, Corporate VP of Microsoft's Business Division, told me at the end of last year to think of LOBi as "the next version of the (Microsoft) Business Data Catalog (BDC) service. Capossela said LOBi would continue to be integrated into all future versions of SharePoint Server.

But what did that mean in the bigger scheme of things? The OBA team itself has finally shed some belated light on the future of LOBi via a blog post on February 27.

The short version: LOBi has been pushed back to the first half of 2009, the ship date Microsoft is aiming to hit with Office 14.

The longer version of Microsoft's LOBi-whereabouts explanation:

After launching a LOBi Community Technology Preview (CTP) test build last June, Microsoft has "engaged with many customers and received extensive feedback on how they are leveraging capabilities available in the 2007 Office system release and the capabilities they need in the future," according to the post on the OBA Team Blog. "Based on this feedback, we’ve changed the timeline of the LOBi Services additions to ensure these capabilities correctly meet the needs articulated by customers. Consequently, LOBi technologies will now be delivered as a set of capabilities within the Office SharePoint Server as part of the next major set of Microsoft Office product releases (the Office 14 wave)."

Meanwhile, Information Bridge Framework (IBF), another Office-integration technology that was the precursor to LOBi (best I can tell), is officially dead. The successor to IBF is Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO), a set of Microsoft-developed technologies for developers interested in building apps on top of Office.

"IBF will continue to be supported through our Product Support Services at least until we officially release the LOBi technologies in the Office 14 timeframe," the OBA team said in the same, aforementioned blog post.

So it seems OBA, VSTO and BDC are all still part of Microsoft's Office-integration strategy. LOBi and IBF: Not so much.


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