Ballmer: Office Business Apps Gaining Steam

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said Wednesday the company's positioning of Office 2007 as a development platform is paying off, and ISV partners are jumping on board and creating innovative applications.

That was the theme of a Wednesday afternoon keynote at the Software 2007 conference in Santa Clara, Calif. in which Ballmer touted the progress of Office Business Applications (OBAs), an emerging class of app that bridges the gap between line-of-business solutions and personal productivity.

Introduced last June, OBAs connect Microsoft Office with backend applications like CRM and ERP using Web services and XML. Microsoft recently enlarged the platform to include SharePoint Server 2007 to allow more developers to expand their skills into OBAs, Ballmer said.

"We now have a programming infrastructure that allows you to extend and project all the way out to Office as a front end to these apps, which, increasingly, you will reveal as services," Ballmer said.

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OBAs are central to the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant's Software+Services strategy, which aims to maintain healthy license revenue from Office 2007 and enable organizations to get the most out of the applications on their network.

"Were trying to drive deployment of licenses people own, increase upgrades to new versions, and sell more seats in enterprise accounts," Ballmer said.

While Office 2007 is about boosting personal productivity, SharePoint establishes a bridge from front-end to backend business applications, which lets organizations take advantage of the apps they've already installed on their networks, Ballmer said.

Microsoft and SAP recently teamed up on an OBA called Duet, which makes it possible to peer into an SAP application, take an invoice and analyze it, and reinsert it into the SAP workflow, all without impacting performance, according to Ballmer.

"We see real opportunity for business solutions apps to marry software and services," Ballmer said.

Microsoft is in the process of building its Windows Live platform, which will run on the Internet cloud, as part of the vendor's transition to software-as-a-service, Ballmer noted.

"Everything we do will evolve into this model," he said.