REDMOND, Wash., Sept. 8, 2003 — Office Online goes live on the Web today , paving the way for delivery of the new Microsoft Office System. Office Online is a comprehensive repository of Microsoft Office user resources designed to help customers get the most out of their Office System programs. The site, which has its roots in — and will replace — the site Office Tools on the Web, has been re-engineered and expanded to better help information workers transform information into impact via a live connection to the new versions of Office. The site is updated daily based on customer feedback to provide the most relevant and up-to-date information.
Press Pass spoke with Chris Linnett , Group Manager of Office Online, about what customers should expect with this new online resource:
Press Pass: How is Office Online different from tools previously available online?
Linnett: One important difference is that Office Online improves our ability to connect with customers so they can tell us what they need, and we can respond by updating the site with the most critical information. There are now more than 100 staff members dedicated to updating the content and improving the user experience for Microsoft Office customers worldwide.
While existing resources like Tools on the Web have been very popular, the relevant information was often scattered across multiple, unconnected Web sites. Now, with Office Online, all of the resources have been organized into a comprehensive and easy-to-access site featuring content that is refreshed daily.
For Office 2003 users, a new benefit is the ability to access the most up-to-date content directly through task panes in the Office system programs so they won’t have to leave the document, spreadsheet or PowerPoint deck they are working in to get the information they need, saving time and frustration. For example, a customer working with pivot tables can ask a question right from Microsoft Excel, and Search will not only return answers to the question but also training courses — all in one set of results.
Meanwhile, all customers using products dating back to Office 97 will be able to access the information they need through the browser, as they have done in the past. Previous users will notice that we’ve migrated all existing content to the new site, and have added volumes of new media and materials as well.
Press Pass: What value do you expect visitors to get from the site?
Linnett: The greatest value is that customers will get to better information faster as we respond to their feedback, update the content, and improve the experience every day. We continue to make it easier to get to the information they need by packaging it in a variety of ways, including new portal pages for each Microsoft Office program, daily promotion of seasonally important information and special features on specific topics.
Customers can get a head start on their documents by using one of the hundreds of custom templates available for all the Microsoft Office programs and then search our collection of over 130,000 pieces of clip art, photos, animations, and audio files for just the right impact, then simply cut and paste their selection directly into Microsoft Office documents. A brand new piece of media will be featured on the site every day, and more media and templates will be created based on customer feedback.
We also see great value to individuals and companies in the more than 50 new self-paced training programs available on Office Online For IT departments, this means they can focus less on individual training and focus more on business critical tasks. Office 2003 customers will be able to take advantage of new self-paced multimedia training courses covering all of the Office programs, including practice sessions, right in the programs. Courses will be added continuously based on customer feedback.
Additionally, customers will be able to keep their Office programs optimized and protected with regular visits to the Downloads site for the most recent Office updates, and they can find out the latest information about new products from the Product Information site.
Finally, one area I haven’t talked about yet is the Office Marketplace. This is a subsection of Office Online dedicated to providing Office customers with information about products and services from partnering companies outside of Microsoft that will further enhance their Microsoft Office System user experience. With Tools on the Web, we featured 12 partners who received tens of thousands of referrals per month. With Office Online, the number of partners and tools has already increased 10-fold. So far, the most popular partner services have been a PDF to Word converter, an e-postage add-in, Excel add-ins that add different charting capabilities to Excel, Factiva (business news) research and reference service, and specialized Word templates.
Press Pass: What kind of traffic do you think Office Online will attract?
Linnett: We already knew that resources like Tools on the Web were very popular among our users, attracting over 25 million unique visitors and over half a billion hits per month. It is among the top 100 most popular Web sites, based on Nielsen/Net ratings. Would you believe that clip art is one of the most popular attractions? We have over 4 million pieces of clip art and media downloaded daily. Over the past 18 months we’ve seen a 50-percent increase in the number of unique visitors per month, and we expect this number to increase dramatically with the launch of Office Online.
One of the main differences is that Office Online will be directly linked from the Microsoft.com home page — currently the third-most popular Web site to attract unique users in the world — also based on Nielsen//Net ratings. And with all this information now pulled together into a single point of contact, we believe people are going to really get more value out of Office Online and the tight integration within the Microsoft Office programs.
Press Pass: What are your goals for Office Online?
Linnett: Ultimately, our goal is to connect with as many of the over 400 million Office users worldwide. We believe by listening to customer feedback we can improve not only the site but also future versions of the product, and empower customers to get the most out of their information.