Microsoft Office developer conference to get under way

Bill Gates to appear at the event, where Microsoft promoting its Office apps suite as app development platform

The 2008 Microsoft Office System Developer Conference this week focuses on the company's Office application suite as an application development platform in and of itself.

The event in San Jose, Calif., features a presentation by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and is the first time it has been held away from the company's Redmond, Wash., campus.

"We are holding the first open-to-the-public Office developer conference," said Chris Bryant, Microsoft senior product manager in the Office platform strategy group. When previously held in 2005 and 2006, the event was invitation-only.

"We decided it was time to reach out broadly," to the public, said Bryant. The company estimates that approximately 45 percent of developers worldwide do development work related to the Office platform, he said.

At the event, Gates will give a keynote presentation featuring a guest from FedEx, David Zanca, senior vice president for e-commerce technologies, who will show how FedEx is extending Office with custom interfaces. 

FedEx will launch FedEx QuickShip, an add-in for Microsoft Outlook. With the add-in, users can create a FedEx shipping order from within Outlook. The shipping form is pre-populated with contact information.

Microsoft will make several announcements at the show. The company will launch version 2 of its OBA (Office Business Applications) Sample Kit for SAP, which lets developers build an Office business application that uses SAP as a back-end data source. Version 2 features compatibility with the newly released Visual Studio 2008 development toolset. Also, the company will offer OBA Sample Kit for PeopleSoft to connect to PeopleSoft data sources. Both the PeopleSoft and SAP kits are free.

Another product, Visual Studio Extensions for Windows SharePoint Services 1.1, a free download from MSDN that adds SharePoint project types to Visual Studio, Bryant said. Developers can build a Web part or a workflow. New project types are featured, including the ability to build a SharePoint site template from an existing SharePoint site. Developers can build an application on a SharePoint site and redeploy it to other SharePoint instances.

The company will release to manufacturing its BizTalk Adapter Pack. "They are data source adapters for Oracle, SAP, and Siebel," for exposing those data sources as Web services and connecting them to SharePoint, said Bryant. The product, to be globally available March 1, presents a more unified data connectivity layer on top of different data sources, he said. This product is expected to cost $5,000 per processor.

Another product on tap from Microsoft is OBA Component Library for Financial Services, also a free product. "It's a set of more than 100 standards-based components that allow developers to build Office business applications in the financial sector," said Bryant. New reference and sample applications will be offered in such spaces as insurance packaging and capital market packaging. 

Microsoft will debut the Winter 2008 release of the online Office Live Small Business, which will be version 2 of the service. With this release, Microsoft will offer a base, free offering and then sell additional services, such as extra storage or mail boxes. A small business would get a Web site and the opportunity to have a domain name and a set of e-mail boxes, Bryant said.

"Customer feedback has essentially told [Microsoft] that the packaging options [were] not as granular as people want," said Bryant.

The company will announce its Metro program for Unified Communications, which will have developer evangelists engaging ISV partners to build unified communications-enabled applications such as ones incorporating speech into applications. Microsoft will seek ISV partners for this program.

FedEx also will show proof of concept applications to deepen its connection to Office, including a connection between FedEx Kinkos printing services and Microsoft Word. Users would be able to choose professional printing options and select a local FedEx Kinkos office where they could pick up their order.

Also planned by FedEx is a link with SharePoint pertaining to shipping and an integration with Word in which the Office ribbon is customized for access to binding, stapling, and collating.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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