Blogger: Craig Roth
This seems like a perfect time to post up some un-educated guesses about what will be in Office 14. It's the perfect time because Burton Group hasn't been briefed on it yet. Normally we would have been by now, but after numerous scheduling conflicts our briefing has now been rescheduled several times since the end of 2008. Usually we are briefed by the vendors we cover well in advance of major announcements which helps us prime our content pipeline, but it also puts a freezing effect on guessing due to the non-disclosure agreements. This leaves me an opportunity to make some lemonade from those lemons. Since I haven't been officially educated on O14, I can feel free to publish guesses without fear that I'm giving away secrets!
That's a round-about way of saying these are all purely guesses on my part. My teammate Larry Cannell already posted some gleanings about SharePoint 14 after the FAST conference. Here are my guesses on the productivity side of Office 14:
- Breaking down some barriers in moving content to/from the web: Copy/pasting from websites to Office and back shouldn't be so messy and linkages should remain. Again, OneNote has foreshadowed some of this and Microsoft has already acknowledged this will be addressed
- Better leveraging / integration of OneNote: The more you dig into OneNote, the more you see that it is not just a note-taking tool for students and home use, but a quantum leap in content creation from Word. Microsoft hasn't pushed its value because they have trouble explaining it. I'm going to place a bet that O14 will lift OneNote's profile, although still not to the level it should be
- Tighter SharePoint integration with the productivity side of Office: I expect the web editors to be leveraged to allow editing of workspace documents in place, much like IBM Lotus Notes does by leveraging Symphony. I also expect better (think "wiki-like") versioning capabilities when modifying documents stored in SharePoint
- Better use of XML schemas: The OOXML spec allows for some very nice schema usage (tagging document sections, being able to split a document into different pieces) that Microsoft didn’t take advantage of in Office 2007. Making those capabilities more visible will make it easier for enterprises and third-parties to programmatically create and reuse document parts
- Better tagging across the suite: Uses of tagging in web 2.0 tools (blogging, tag clouds, social tagging) has far outpaced the underutilized, weak, free-form "keywords" and "category" fields in the Document Properties pane (quiz: do you know how to get to it in Office 2007?). SharePoint enabled policies to be linked to the Document Properties panel, but capabilities for shared namespaces, tag clouds, and controlled vocabularies were absent from Office 2007. I will place my last bet that O14 includes at least some of these tagging capabilities that are commonplace in other domains
- Web editors: Stripped down, Silverlight enabled versions of all your Office favorites. Includes a mobile experience as well. Some of this has already been announced or leaked, but the Silverlight part is just a guess
- Real-time collaborative editing: There are plenty of non-Microsoft products that do this now (like SubEthaEdit) and OneNote can already do this (to a lesser extent than the true RCE tools). I expect more of it in the rest of the Office suite
One final caveat: While I think all of these are good, this is not my list of what could and should be done with Office. What I've guessed above are more incremental improvements except for the web editors. I'll leave some more radical ideas on how to revitalize the Office productivity franchise for another posting.