Here's a howler: "Microsoft also wouldn't discuss the system requirements
necessary for the next Office release, but Enderle expects them to be the
same or lower than Office 97, because users will be able to run smaller
components as opposed to huge feature-rich applications."
Word without toolbars seems like a real win, though...
Office suite's next generation to gain new technologies
By Jeff Walsh
Posted at 4:13 PM PT, Jul 24, 1997
SEATTLE -- Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled technologies and prototypes that
users might see in the next release of its Office productivity suite, but
it wouldn't commit to when the next version would ship or if it would even
contain the demonstrated prototypes.
There were, however, some hints and speculation about possible release
One analyst said Microsoft partially defined its release schedule by saying
there wouldn't be an Office 98.
"I'm interpreting that as Office 99," said Chris Le Tocq, an analyst at
Dataquest, in San Jose, Calif.
Paul Maritz, Microsoft's group vice president of platforms and
applications, also noted that there will probably be "at least one or two
new upgrades to Office" by the year 2000.
But Microsoft did commit to lowering the total cost of ownership with the
next version of Office by 50 percent. Part of that goal will be achieved
with Office exploiting the company's Zero Administration for Windows (ZAW)
Microsoft demonstrated several ZAW enhancements that will be included in
the next Office release:
(a) the ability for an application to repair itself when critical files are
corrupted or deleted;
(b) install-on-demand capabilities;
(c) roaming user support, so networked users can have their desktops,
toolbars, and settings follow them wherever they work; and
(d) a run-from-server configuration to run Office with no client footprint,
to help reduce administration costs.
Some industry analysts have questioned whether customers should upgrade to
Office 97 as opposed to waiting, but Rob Enderle, an analyst with Giga
Information Group, in Santa Clara, Calif., said Microsoft is addressing
that concern with its TCO announcements.
"One of the main problems with an upgrade is cost. It's hard to measure
productivity gains, so they have to show how much the product can reduce
support to make the upgrade a no-brainer," Enderle said.
The company admitted work was necessary to make Office simpler for both
users and administrators.
"We haven't done as good a job as we should have in keeping our products
simple. We're going to fix that," said Jon DeVaan, vice president of
Microsoft's desktop applications division.
One Word prototype shown had no toolbars, just a blank screen which
interpreted the user's needs using natural language processing. If the user
began a memo, the rest of the fields were automatically filled in. If the
user typed "write a letter to," a letter template flowed into the document.
Other demonstrated uses of natural language processing were enabling more
relevant Web searches and the ability for the computer to categorize e-mail
by topic and importance.
Enderle said the functionality demonstrated in the Word prototype is
probably something Microsoft will exploit with its Microsoft Voice speech
"It sounds like positioning to take advantage of that technology. That
could be a really compelling application," Enderle said.
Microsoft also wouldn't discuss the system requirements necessary for the
next Office release, but Enderle expects them to be the same or lower than
Office 97, because users will be able to run smaller components as opposed
to huge feature-rich applications.
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