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Microsoft Offers Sneak Peek At Office 12

Among the tiny pieces shown: a distributed forms feature to allow customers to fill in and submit XML forms easily via a browser.
For those chomping at the bit for more Office 12 details, Microsoft offered a tiny peek at the upcoming offering, or offerings, due next year.

In what he termed the first public viewing of Office 12, Chris Capossela, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Information Worker Product Management Group, showed off a distributed forms capability that would enable customers to fill in and submit XML forms easily via a browser, without having to run Microsoft InfoPath on their PC.

Capossela referred generally to a "forms" server without much more detail, but CRN last year reported that Microsoft is working on an InfoPath Server, or Forms server, to debut with Office 12 in the second half of 2006.

The form looks identical whether viewed in a browser or from SharePoint and can be routed around easily via e-mail.

Capossela also showed off the upcoming Microsoft Office Business Scorecard Manager, aka Maestro Maestro, due this fall.

Also with the Office 12 wave, Groove Networks' product, now called Virtual Office, officially will be part of the Office lineup, he said. Microsoft completed its buyout of Groove earlier this year.

Microsoft has been loathe to speak much on the upcoming Office even though many customers and partners have been hounding the Redmond, Wash.-based company for details. Many large accounts are looking for reasons to re-up their multiyear volume licensing agreements and Office updates are a primary incentive to renew. Capossela said the company plans to dive deeper into Office 12 technology details at the Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles in September.

CRN has learned that major interface rework is under way for this important release aimed at surfacing a users' most desired features and functions and eliminating icon clutter.