Microsoft Showcases Platform Strategy and Opportunity

REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 29, 2006 – With tomorrow’s launch of three key products – Microsoft Windows Vista operating system, 2007 Microsoft Office system client and server applications, and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 – Microsoft is creating vibrant opportunities for both new and existing partners and customers through platform innovation.

To learn more about the launches from the platform perspective, PressPass spoke with Sanjay Parthasarathy, corporate vice president with Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Evangelism Group.

PressPass:  There’s a lot of anticipation for the launch of Microsoft Windows Vista, 2007 Office system and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007.  How do these releases shape the overall platform opportunity for partners and customers?

Sanjay Parthasarathy, Corporate Vice President, Developer & Platform Evangelism Group

Parthasarathy:  While the new IT and end-user features of these products get a lot of attention, there’s also a lot going on with the underlying platform that creates new opportunities for developers and ISVs to build applications and grow their businesses on the Microsoft platform. The release of Windows Vista is really critical to extending the capabilities of Web-based applications due to breakthrough innovation to the underlying infrastructure in the .NET Framework. On the Office front, there’s a lot of excitement around the new platform capabilities in the 2007 Office system which is, in a lot of ways, a culmination of our “Office as a platform” vision. And Exchange Server 2007 is raising the bar in terms of how Web services are being used for more sophisticated message sharing, delivery and management.

PressPass: What is the significance of the Windows Vista release?

Parthasarathy: Any time there’s a major release of Windows it’s significant because it raises the floor for the whole industry. For example, Windows 95 provided a standard TCP/IP stack which was a critical enabler of the Internet revolution. With Windows Vista, the .NET Framework 3.0 brings a rich set of platform enablers that span the Web services architecture, enhance user experience, and improve business process.  Already we are seeing great innovation on the .NET Framework 3.0. A great example of this is an application built by the New York Times called “Times Reader” that takes advantage of the capabilities of Windows Presentation Foundation for richer delivery and readability of online content.

Also, the security and manageability features in Windows Vista will raise the bar on customer expectations in those categories, so the impact of Windows Vista tends to extend out not only to the customers who use it, but the partners who build on it.

PressPass:  What does it mean for Office to be a “platform”?

Parthasarathy:  Office has long been considered a platform by developers and Office users, particularly when you look at the thousands of add-ins and customizations done for the Office client over the years.  But in the last two years, we’ve really embraced the notion of Office as a platform for developers who want to use Office as a front end to mission critical business systems. Support for XML introduced in Office 2003, enriched developer tools via Visual Studio Tools for Office, and opportunities for developers to share ideas and hear from technical experts at events such as the Office Developer and SharePoint conferences have been instrumental in realizing this vision. 

PressPass: What are some of the specific improvements in the new release that bring this idea of a platform to life?

Parthasarathy: We’ve obviously made a lot of changes to the Office client with the new UI and the additional extensibility features, but it’s the platform capabilities in the server tier that really raise the bar. For example, the alignment between the 2007 Office release and the core platform is greater than ever, and there are numerous instances of this: ASP.NET is the programming model for SharePoint, the BI capabilities in Office can take advantage of new analysis capabilities we delivered in SQL Server Reporting Services, the workflow capabilities are powered by Windows Workflow in the .NET Framework 3.0, and the list goes on and on.

The maturity of Office as a platform combined with the tools support you’ll see in the 2007 release enables an exciting new class of applications that connect up back-end, line-of-business (LOB) systems with the people who use them through Microsoft Office.  We call these Office Business Applications or “OBAs,” and we’re seeing a lot of excitement for these types of applications from our partners and customers.

PressPass:  Can you tell us more about OBAs?

Parthasarathy:  While there are a number of platform technologies you could employ in building an OBA (Web services, adapters, SQL), Office is the core asset, both on the client and the server.  Customers have made significant investments in their LOB systems that up until now have produced questionable ROI. LOB applications have a treasure trove of data and information tied up inside that companies want to be able to access and use. So the question is – how do customers unlock that value and empower people to act on that information?  The customer dynamic we’ve seen is one of bottoms-up design and development, in which Office users are connected to a very specific LOB scenario or set of scenarios, positive results come quickly, and the deployment tends to snowball.  Even within Microsoft, we’ve employed this approach to make Microsoft Outlook the default front-end for our many back-end CRM systems, enabling our enterprise sales reps to now manage their customer activities in Outlook and have it sync with the back end. Some of our sales reps say they’re spending 10 percent more time in front of customers, and that time was previously spent managing the data entry into back-end systems.

And like I said, ISVs are quickly recognizing the opportunity, and there are many examples of companies like OpenText and Epicor that are building OBAs based on the 2007 Office system. We see 2007 Office as a great foundation for more and more of these types of applications, and a golden opportunity for ISVs to drive greater usage of their applications.

PressPass:  Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 is also launching this week. What does this mean from a platform standpoint?

Parthasarathy:  The Exchange team has done some great work on the 2007 release to expose a lot of the underlying product capabilities using Web services and .NET.  With Exchange Server 2007, it’s much easier for developers to embed information from any Exchange Server 2007 mailbox or calendar within line-of-business or other custom applications.  There are several mechanisms to do this.  First and foremost, the Exchange Web Services API, which gives you a single, standards-based API that you can call from any client, using any language or platform.  For example, you could build an application that could remotely access mail messages, handle meeting requests, look up users in the address book, and determine the availability of other users.  The other mechanisms are via the Exchange .NET Framework Extensions to access and manipulate various parts of email messages, Transport Agents to support in-transit access to e-mail messages, and the Exchange Management Shell for scriptable, command-line interaction with Exchange.

Additionally, much functionality that in previous releases of Exchange would have only been accessible through complex scripts or custom coding can now be done without coding.  For example, with the Transport Rules features in Exchange Server 2007, messaging administrators and developers can use the tools in the graphical Exchange Management Console to quickly create rules that modify, reroute and otherwise manipulate messages in transport.  These rules can form the foundation for messaging compliance implementations.  We’ve done a lot of work here to enhance the developer-specific capabilities of Exchange, and they further enrich the platform overall.

PressPass:  Finally, let’s talk about ISVs. This is obviously a highly anticipated launch and partners and customers have been preparing for this for some time. What are you seeing in terms of adoption and overall preparedness for these news product releases and platform opportunities?

Parthasarathy:  We’re very committed to helping ISV’s drive more profitability on our platform and maximizing their overall business opportunity, and the ISV opportunity is tremendous when you look at the anticipated adoption rates of Windows. In 2007, we expect there to be several hundred million PCs in market that will be Windows Vista capable (70 million by the end of this calendar year), and we expect to see twice the adoption rate of any previous operating system going into enterprise and business customers.  We have more than 1,200 ISVs in our early adopter program, and expect more than 1,000 business and consumer applications that will be shipping within 90 days of launch. This is pretty amazing when compared to the fewer than a dozen applications that were ready for Windows 95 when it shipped.

The fact that we’re launching both Windows and Office simultaneously for the first time since Windows95/Office95 makes the opportunity even more significant especially given the maturity of Office on the platform front. As a result, more than 1,000 of the industry’s largest ISVs have been developing and testing solutions for the 2007 Microsoft Office system and more than 300 partner solutions are already available. There’s just an incredible ecosystem opportunity here, and we’re very excited to see the innovation that comes out of these releases in the months ahead.

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