REDMOND, Wash., March 6, 2001 — Today, Microsoft announced the availability of the beta version of Microsoft Visio 2002, the first Microsoft-developed version of Visio since it was acquired in January 2000. Ted Johnson , vice president of Microsofts Business Tools Division and cofounder of Visio Corp., sat down with PressPass recently to discuss the new product line and what customers can expect from Visio in the future.
Ted Johnson, vice president of Microsoft’s Business Tools Division and cofounder of Visio Corp.
PressPass: What are some of the key features that stand out for you in Microsoft Visio 2002?
Johnson: The Visio product family has always been strong, but Visio 2002 will be the best product weve ever shipped. What really stands out for me is the products enhanced graphics capabilities. Weve done some fabulous work to improve the users overall experience with Visio. We are now able to import and manipulate images within Visio from various sources — including digital cameras, scanners and Office XPs Clip Organizer. Color is a much bigger part of Visio 2002. We also now anti-alias lines and text, making them appear smoother. Bottom line: Visio diagrams simply look better.
Weve also made it easier for customers to locate and add the shapes they need when they need them. With our new Find Shape feature, for example, customers can search their hard drive and the Web for the exact shapes they need.
PressPass: Visio 2002 shares the look and feel of Office XP. What was the rationale behind that?
Johnson: When we first developed Visio 10 years ago, we pioneered a new category of software: business drawing and diagramming, which provided a way for business users to easily create professional-looking diagrams. We knew then that our customers would also be users of office suites. Based on this initial vision, there has always been a natural symbiosis between Visio and Microsoft Office, even when we were our own company. For example, customers could easily insert Visio diagrams into their Word documents and PowerPoint presentations to more concisely make their point.
But the alignment with Office wasnt perfect in Visio 2000. Editing Visio diagrams from within Office applications was not as intuitive as customers expected. Visio didnt quite behave the way Office users wanted it to. Now that were a part of Microsoft, our customers expect Visio to be a true Office family application. So we incorporated features like personalized menus, as-you-type spell checking, AutoCorrect, keyboard shortcuts and the new Office XP interface and task panes. Our customers expect no less.
PressPass: Does Visio support any other Microsoft products?
Johnson: Yes. Visio 2002 supports a wide variety of Microsoft products and technologies, such as Microsoft Project, Exchange Server, Windows 2000 and Visual Studio 6.0. We also plan to issue a service release when Visual Studio.NET is available, so developers who use Visio to diagram their software structures will be able to diagram their new C# [pronounced C sharp] classes and objects.
PressPass: What about installation and deployment? Have there been any advances there for Visio?
Johnson: Corporate customers want their Microsoft software to install and deploy enterprise-wide with a minimal amount of hassle. In the past, Visio wasnt easy to deploy widely, but with this release we knew we had to deliver. To that end, weve added support for Microsoft Installer (MSI) and Systems Management Server (SMS), so deploying Visio is now easier than ever. Users can now perform unattended and custom installs, and with a new self-repair feature, maintaining Visio should be easier and less expensive than ever.
PressPass: Visio 2002 boasts a new product lineup. Whats changed?
Johnson: With the Visio 2000 product line, we had four product editions, which confused many of our customers. In fact, some of them bought more than one edition of Visio in order to get all the shapes and solutions they needed. With Visio 2002, we tried to eliminate that confusion and provide all the content our users needed in two product editions.
Former users of Visio 2000 Standard will continue to find the content they need to create flowcharts, organization charts and other business diagrams in Visio 2002 Standard.
More technical users like IT professionals, engineers, facilities managers and software developers, on the other hand, will now be able to find all the content they need in one box: Visio 2002 Professional. At the request of these users, we consolidated the content from the Visio 2000 Technical and Professional editions into one product.
Visios advanced networking tools, like the AutoDiscovery and Layout feature, now reside in an add-on product to Visio 2002 Professional called Visio Enterprise Network Tools. The Enterprise Network Tools product includes a one-year subscription to the Visio Network Center, where users can get new and updated Visio solutions, and the latest network equipment shapes.
PressPass: Whats the benefit of the Visio Network Center?
Johnson: The Visio Network Center will enable us to provide new and updated shapes and solutions to our IT customers in a more timely fashion. Previously, it could take as long as 18 months to provide these customers with new information. In the fast-changing world of IT, this simply wasnt fast enough. Now, through the Network Center, delivering new solutions to our IT customers will be faster, easier and more immediate. With the Network Center, customers will have immediate access to the tools and resources they need to more accurately document their network and Windows 2000 server infrastructures.
PressPass: What kind of competition does Visio face?
Johnson: We have competition in specific segments, but theres no one vendor who provides the breadth of functionality and drawing types that we do with Visio. Most of our competitors serve the needs of various niche vertical markets where the tools are specialized, typically more expensive and require a greater degree of training. Our goal with Visio is to provide a drawing and diagramming solution that can be used broadly by business and technical professionals enterprise-wide.
PressPass: As you said, this is the first version of the product since Microsoft acquired Visio. You mentioned that your customers expectations changed as a result of the acquisition. How did being a part of Microsoft affect the development process?
Johnson: Quality and innovation expectations are much higher with Microsoft products, and we had to rise to the occasion. Over the past year, I have been continually impressed by the seriousness of Microsofts development process. Despite some criticism to the contrary, I believe Microsoft products are engineered and tested to a very high standard, and thats something thats certainly reflected in Visio 2002.
PressPass: How will Microsofts .NET vision impact future Visio releases?
Johnson: One of the fundamental .NET concepts that I love is that it assumes a world where were all connected. Once you make that assumption, there are some innovative services and solutions we can offer our customers to broaden the relevance, availability and appeal of diagramming. With Microsoft Visio 2002, weve taken a few small steps toward this vision of constant connection and software as a service. The Visio Network Center and our Find Shape feature, which I mentioned earlier, allow our IT customers to seamlessly reach up into a library on the Web, which stores 25,000 exact replica network equipment shapes that are used to accurately diagram their networks. The goal is to provide our customers with immediate access to the tools and resources they need. In a .NET world, we expect to provide our customers with additional online diagramming services. Those offered in Visio 2002 are simply a first step.
PressPass: Whats the significance of this release? How does it advance your vision for the product line?
Johnson: In many ways, this release has been a return to our roots. We set out 10 years ago to build a product that could be the standard for business drawing and diagramming. The breadth of Microsoft Visio 2002s capabilities puts us considerably closer to that goal. We offer a single drawing and diagramming platform that can handle simple and complex drawings — everything from flow charts and organization charts to space plans to IT diagrams. Visio can draw or diagram nearly anything. Its the one product out there that appeals to engineers, project managers, marketing managers and administrative assistants alike. They all have different tasks, but the underlying need to communicate information is the same. And Visio provides a powerful tool to help people understand and relay complex concepts to others.