Microsoft Getting Ready To Chat Up Office 12's New Look

That&s when Microsoft executives will discuss the up-and-coming Office 12 Ribbon user interface, sources said.

As CRN has reported, Office 12, due next year, will sport a context-sensitive “ribbon” toolbar relevant only to the task at hand. Sources say to expect a beta in a few months.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company is still sussing out what exactly will constitute the “Premium” version of the popular suite, but it is likely to include at least some of the collaboration functionality now found in Groove Virtual Office. Microsoft completed its acquisition of Groove Networks earlier this year and brought Groove founder Ray Ozzie aboard as a CTO.

At the analyst meeting in July, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer mentioned a higher-end, more expensive Office SKU. “We have plans in the next generation for something even higher end than Office that we call Office Premium. We think of a new concept that we call the Office Server. It will have associated with it a new premium client access license,” he said.

Sponsored post

Groups within Microsoft have mulled over this Office Server concept for years, trying to come up with ways for Office client apps to tap into richer back-end functions and thus become more powerful—and more profitable to Microsoft. Since then, several Office-labeled servers have surfaced, including the current Sharepoint Portal and Project Server and the upcomingBusiness Scorecard Server. There are or have also been plans for a Forms Server, an Excel Server and a converged Excel/SharePoint server, according to company sources.

But Microsoft is also batting around the notion of a converged all-in-one Office Server to help avoid a confusing array of products, sources said. Office 12 initially was to have been a Longhorn release, although Microsoft never publicly acknowledged that fact. After Longhorn&s delays, the Office team stuck pretty much to its existing release cycle.

In June, Microsoft Group Vice President Jeff Raikes told CRN that Groove Virtual Office will become part of the Office System family.

A Microsoft spokesman reiterated that point. “As Jeff Raikes and others have confirmed previously, Groove will be a component of the Office System of products, servers and services,” he said. “However, specific packaging and licensing decisions for Groove as part of the Office System haven&t been finalized.”

Microsoft is trying to sell solution providers on the idea of the Office System as a development platform. Office has been a hugely profitable franchise for Microsoft but less so for solution providers.