Microsoft Gives First Look At Project 2010

The new release has been re-developed on Microsoft's SharePoint Server platform and for the first time unifies Microsoft's project and portfolio management tools into a single entity.

"This is the most significant release of [Microsoft] Project in a decade," Seth Patton, senior marketing director for Microsoft Project, said in an interview.

The company's timetable calls for providing a public beta version of the software before the end of the year and shipping the final "release to manufacturing" version in the first six months of 2010.

Microsoft provided a preview of the new software this week at its Microsoft Project Conference 2009 in Phoenix. Patton said there are some 1,300 attendees at the conference, about 40 percent of which are channel partners, including solution providers, ISVs, hosting partners, training service providers and consultants. About 350 partners attended "deep dive" training sessions on the new software on Monday, Patton said.

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Altogether Microsoft has more than 1,000 channel partners that work with Microsoft Project, according to Patton.

The Microsoft Project product line currently includes the Microsoft Office Project 2007 client application, Microsoft Project Server 2007 and Microsoft Portfolio Server 2007.

Portfolio management applications, which organizations use to evaluate and prioritize proposed development projects and align them with business goals, are particularly important right now as IT departments try to cut costs. Until now Microsoft customers have used gateway software to link the separate Microsoft Project and Portfolio server products. But Microsoft Project 2010 will combine the project and portfolio management server software into a single product, Patton said.

Rebuilding Microsoft Project Server on SharePoint means Project 2010 users will be able to tap into SharePoint's collaboration capabilities to share project documents and take advantage of SharePoint's reporting and key performance indicator features, according to Patton.

Project 2010 also is more tightly linked with Microsoft Office applications including Exchange Server, which allows Project to issue project status updates through Outlook, and PowerPoint, allowing users to cut and paste materials from Project into presentations.

Microsoft has updated Project's user interface using the vendor's Office Fluent technology. Also new are Web-based project editing capabilities. And like most project management applications Microsoft Project still uses Gant charts that show the resources devoted to a project. But Microsoft Project 2010 will offer additional views, such as showing the status of a project according to the tasks assigned to workers.