Office 12 To Boost XML Support, Document Security

When Office 12 ebuts next year, the default save-to file format will be XML. Or at least Microsoft's version of XML.
A spokeswoman said the former is the case and that .x and m designations will be programmatically honored. "An 'M' at the end indicates executable/macros are inside -- systems will be able to programmatically check the file format for executables, and if companies don't want to enable macros, they can have their IT systems remove them even if it was originally an 'M' file. More importantly, however, if someone tried to change the 'M' to an 'X' to try to slip an unsuspecting macro on someone, it won't work -- the executables won't run in X files.

Microsoft partners say the company has to show users—who loathe change-- why they should upgrade. "For me, the compelling reason to move to Office 2003 was SharePoint integration. If, in Office 12, they go collaboration crazy by integrating more Groove technologies, that could be big," said one long-time Microsoft partner in the south.

Microsoft has said it will incorporate some of Groove's secure collaboration technology in the "Office12 wave" but has been guarded on specifics.

Microsoft has unveiled plans for some new "Office Servers" like Maestro for realtime analytics to boost migrations to the latest-and-greatest Office.

But it has not yet publicized internal plans for an InfoPath Server that would ease dissemination of electronic forms to far-flung users, some of which might not have the InfoPath application deployed.

The company is also reportedly still weighing Excel server functionality that would probably end up pairing the Excel calculation engine with SharePoint Portal Server functions. Right now, with the Excel client application, when results are sent out, they are sent with the underlying formula, a situation that could cause a security problem. "A calculation engine that serves up the results of the spreadsheet as opposed to the spreadsheet itself would be very helpful," said one longtime partner. He also acknowledged that Microsoft has talked privately about an Excel Server engine for years now.

Office 12 is due to beta this fall and to ship in the second half of 2006.

Sources said initial plans were for Office 12 to be a Longhorn product. The scope and delay to Longhorn forced rethinking on that point, and Office 12 will run on Windows XP as well as Longhorn when it arrives. "What the Longhorn specific 'light up' features will be, it's too soon to say," Numoto said.

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