New Microsoft Office Servers on the Way
Office 12 is the code name for the next major version of Microsoft's Office System client and server products. Microsoft has not released a public delivery date for Office 12, but most company watchers are expecting it to ship in the 2006+ "Longhorn wave" timeframe. Microsoft has said Office 12 won't be tied to Longhorn, however. Office 12 products also are expected to run on older versions of Windows, most likely Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.
Microsoft already offers a handful of server products under its Office System umbrella. Its current Office Servers are Content Management Server, its Web-publishing product; Exchange Server, its e-mail server; Live Communications Server, its enterprise instant-messaging product; Project Server, Microsoft's project-management offering; and SharePoint Portal Server, its team-collaboration product.
Microsoft corporate vice president Kurt DelBene oversees these products in his role as head of the Microsoft Office Server Group.
It's unclear what new features and functionality might be part of an Excel Server product. But Visio product manager Jason Bunge told Microsoft Watch last year that company officials were contemplating building a Visio Server, a la Microsoft Project Server. Bunge said such a move might be accompanied by a formal repositioning of Visio, in an attempt to officially rechristen the product as more of a "corporate intelligence" tool, than a traditional charting/diagramming one.
Microsoft declined to discuss Office 12 in any way. When asked about plans to expand its Office family, a spokeswoman issued the following statement: "Today we're focused on working hard with partners to deliver the great productivity enhancements in Microsoft Office 2003 and the existing products in the Microsoft Office System. At this point it's a little premature to speculate about what might or might not be in future versions of the Office System."
But according to sources, it's unlikely that Microsoft will position its new Excel Server or Visio Server products as part of a thin-client solution, obviating the need to run Excel or Visio on the desktop. Instead, sources said, Microsoft is expected to play up the benefits of running Excel or Visio on both the client and server, emphasizing the new collaboration possibilities such "smart client" scenarios would create.
Microsoft already is embarking on a similar "better together" strategy with the next generation of its Visual Studio tools products. When it delivers by mid-2005 its Visual Studio 2005 desktop tool suite, Microsoft also will debut the first server product from its developer division: Visual Studio 2005 Team System. Microsoft is emphasizing that these client and server Visual Studio SKUs are meant to be used together.