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Microsoft Plans Information Bridge Update

IBF service pack, with support for InfoPath, IE hosting, is due this spring.
Microsoft is working on an update to its Information Bridge Framework (IBF) for this spring, a company spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday.

What had been referred to as IBF 1.5 by partner sources will actually be a service pack for the integration software. The update, to be delivered via MSDN, will add support for two new host applications, InfoPath and Internet Explorer. The current IBF supports Word 2003, Excel 2003, and Outlook 2003.

The goal of the software is to provide a seamless flow of information back and forth between various Microsoft Office client applications and legacy data of all types on the back end.

Citing usability issues with the first release, solution providers were jazzed by news of the update. Several said IBF facilitates smoother, two-way data flow.

"InfoPath is good for putting data into back-end systems, but IBF makes it easier to disseminate it," said one solution provider.

Another partner agreed. "Does IBF help you write queries against Oracle database data? No. But once you have the data it makes it a lot easier to distribute it via familar Word or Excel frontends," he noted.

But he and others said IBF 1.0, was not particularly useful in its current form. The current product was "good in theory and concept,[but] the effort to develop around it, debug and deploy it was too much," he noted, adding that he hoped the beta code he expects next month will alleviate his concerns.

News of the Information Bridge project, or the Information Worker Bridge, came out a year ago. Microsoft disclosed the plans publicly five months later at TechEd.

Microsoft has been showing off bits and pieces of the new code at various venues, including the IT Forum in Copenhagen, Denmark, last November, as well as in Webinars, the spokeswoman said.

To spur deployment of the latest Office 2003 applications, Microsoft is working on new server-based components, including an InfoPath server, as well as on better interopability with legacy data.

Oracle's recent buyout of PeopleSoft means that Microsoft is under more pressure to forge such ties with information in non-Microsoft systems. New Office servers, accessible from Word or Excel would, in theory, drive more deployments of the latest applications and offer enterprises more reason to upgrade their office applications, Microsoft insiders have said.

The Microsoft spokeswoman said there were no hard plans to announce the service pack at the Office Developer Conference, due to kick off Feb. 2, but she reiterated that it's slated for a spring release via MSDN.

PAULA ROONEY contributed to this story.

This story was updated Wednesday morning with additional partner reaction.

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