Remarks by Bill Gates, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation
Office System Developers Conference 2008
San Jose, Calif.
Feb. 11, 2008
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Director, Office Development, Microsoft Corporation, Jay Paulos.
JAY PAULOS: Well, good morning. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to San Jose for the first ever public Office Developers Conference. It’s really exciting to have you here. I just want to say a few quick words. You know, it’s a ton of work putting these conferences on. Over the next three days, the crew will put in about 5,000 hours worth of labor. They’ll install and remove about four miles of CATV cabling, set up and tear down hundreds of machines, all in the name of delivering you guys the latest and greatest in the educational sessions, the hands-on labs, and the exhibits on the expo floor. So, it’s a ton of work, but it’s all worth it because it means we get to spend three days with you, our best and brightest, the folks doing this office system development which is a really exciting prospect for us. So, by all means, please make the most of it. Get as much as you can from the show, and most importantly have a great time.
To kick the show off, we’ve got three keynotes this morning, and it’s my great honor to be able to introduce our chairman and chief software architect, Mr. Bill Gates. (Applause.)
BILL GATES: Well, thanks. It’s great to be here today. There are two things I really like, I like Office, and I like developers. So I particularly like Office developers.
I wanted to talk a little bit about some of the development platform directions, and why I see Office as continuing to innovate at a very rapid pace. The opportunity to make workers more productive is really a phenomenal opportunity, and I believe we’re just at the beginning of that, and a key element is the broad set of software we use to empower those workers. And there’s no more important piece of software for that than Office, and making this a platform is very important for us. In fact, if you look at the success of our software or any software, this emphasis on it being a platform, reaching out to developers, having great tools has been the key to its success.
Now, why am I so optimistic about how Office can achieve new things? Well, it’s partly because the hardware industry gives us new capabilities. Microsoft was founded when Paul Allen and I were talking about Moore’s Law, the prediction that the number of transistors on the chip would double every two years or so. And we saw that as providing essentially infinite computing power, and we saw that it would change the character of computing from being just about minicomputers or mainframes that were a tool of organizations to be more a tool of individuals, the personal computer. And that would demand a whole new way of looking at software. In fact, an entire software industry building high volume, low cost solutions. And so that ushered in an incredible wave of innovation around the personal computer.
That improvement in hardware has not stopped. In fact, we’ve got even more than a decade we see that it will continue. And so we have more powerful CPUs, better graphics. On the storage front, the improvement is even more rapid than on the processor front. The size of the solid state disks, the size of the magnetic disks, all of those are making it possible now for us to build gigantic databases, and think about data types like video, and have those become extremely practical. In fact, something like recording the various meetings we have in the office, and making it so that somebody can archive those, and do speech recognition, and step through those, and annotate those, that’s a very straightforward thing. The costs are very, very low. Whereas, even five years ago, it would have been incredibly impractical. And so the sky is almost the limit in terms of storage and performance.
Of course, connectivity is key here as well. The pervasiveness of broadband, the rapid increase in terms of the optic fiber transmission speeds means that we can expect really unlimited ability to send even things like high definition videos to different parts of the globe, and not expect that those will be very expensive.
We also have new form factors. The portable machine getting smaller and smaller, the mobile phone becoming more and more powerful, and so as we think about software, we’re running it in the personal computer. We’re running it as a service. We’re running it on servers. We’re running it on those mobile phones. Software that works together across all of those devices that really delivers a complete solution. And so the mobile phone will become a partner of the PC in terms of how people navigate their information, and making it easy to write applications that run on both of those is very important.
The cloud, the service piece of this thing also becomes more important. We’ll talk about some new developments on that front with Office.
Perhaps the most dramatic change that I think people underestimate is the way we interact with the personal computer. It’s been the keyboard and the mouse, and that won’t go away, but in the future we’ll have touch, we’ll have voice, we’ll have the pen for ink, and we’ll have various camera type devices that essentially provide vision capabilities. And so the office of the future is one where your whiteboard is a display, and as you move up and touch things you can move them around, you can expand them. Your desk, the very surface of the desk, can be an intelligent surface. So as you’re working with information, or as you go into a meeting room and collaborate, that idea of vision and touch means that the facility to get through the information is better and better.
Now, as we make it easy to navigate the information, we have to make the information meaningful. We have to make it easy to comprehend. And that’s where new Office presentation techniques come in, that’s where new data connectors, so that the world of Office, and the world of applications aren’t two completely separate worlds, that you can use the metaphors you’re used to in the Office environment, and the events of importance from the Office environment, and connect those appropriately up to the applications. And so between user interface, and new data connections means Office can take on a very ambitious agenda in the future.
Speaking of the future, probably all of you know that this year is the year of transition for me. In the middle of the year, I’ll switch from being full-time at Microsoft to being part-time, and increase the work I’m doing on my Foundation. And as I was thinking about that last day, I thought, well, that will be a little strange. What do you do on your last day? Is it kind of awkward? What should I think about? I hope it’s not too traumatic. And some friends volunteered to help make a video to get me thinking about this and comfortable with it. So let’s take a look at that.
We had fun making that. In fact, the transition is going very well with Ray Ozzie and Craig Mundie, and many of the technical leaders, really stepping up to drive our future architecture. One of the things I will stay involved, even though not full time, is what we’re doing with Office. I’ve always felt a strong connection to it, and I see great frontiers there, so I’m looking forward to time on how we drive that into the future.
Part of the success of Office, as I said, has been as a platform. Visual Basic was something that Microsoft came out with early, and the extensibility there with third party controls made it very successful. Then, of course, we connected it in with Office 4.0, as Visual Basic for Applications. That goes all the way back to 1993. And that’s been a great way that people have extended the functionality that we provide.
We keep making that better and better, but throughout the years it’s been the most popular scripting type capability, and available across the entire Office suite. So making that a more powerful tool is part of our commitment. In fact, Visual Studio 2008, that’s the first time we’ve really integrated this fully in to our most powerful development tools. So VBA, a very key element, and the close coupling through that scripting is just one of the ways, but an important way, that people are able to extend Office.
So how do we look at extending Office, what are the different pieces? Well, in fact, you can right on the client connect up, use the rich user interface, the interactivity there, and extend the Office applications. We have several ways to do that that we’ll dive into. You can extend up on the server, and that’s becoming increasingly important as people think about Office as not just the client piece, but also SharePoint and Exchange up on the server. Then we have this third piece that today is the smallest of the three, but it’s probably growing the most rapidly, and we think will become equally important, and that is connecting up and extending the services, even building applications that people connect to that don’t run on their premise, either run in our mega-data center or run in the developer’s data center, to provide software capabilities.
So across all of this we have one architecture, and one key tool, which is Visual Studio. We want data to move between Office modules, and across these different tiers. In fact, we’re making the server, and service tiers as symmetric as possible. So in a lot of ways whatever you do to build, say, a SharePoint extension or template, that today might be most important for people to run on-premise on their servers, that same work will be able to apply over into the service-type environment. So as we bootstrap that, having that server and service symmetry is very, very important to us.
You can imagine with the new interaction techniques the client piece will continue to get richer, that idea of touch, and speech, and the richness there. But, we also see the innovation in the other two areas being equally rapid. I believe that SharePoint has become a standard, the same way that Office itself has for document types.
I mean, today when people talk about presentations or spreadsheets, they expect that people know Excel, and they know PowerPoint, and whether it’s within an organization, or across an organization, they feel comfortable using those data types. We’re just seeing the beginning of that with SharePoint, as well. So that if you want to start a project where people are collaborating together, taking a SharePoint template, and having people be familiar with the user interface, and connect up to that, have the different parts they might want to use there, that’s also becoming something that’s very horizontal.
So it takes what was a very fragmented world of portals, and special search, document management, and workflow, and things that were expensive, and complicated on their own, and each has their own extensibility model, and were only used by a subset of the employee population, and instead takes it and says, no, this is something that just like Office on the client, the broad employee base should use. So when you’re starting a project, or a product, or an analysis, building a SharePoint Web site to find one of those templates, that’s just a common sense thing to do.
So that centerpiece over the last five years, the server piece, has been strengthened incredibly with the success of SharePoint and Exchange. In fact, that piece has become a huge target for software development.
I think there’s a we can see applications that combine the strength of these different things, and in fact, I’ve got one that I’m very excited to have you take a look at. This is an important partner of ours, FedEx, that’s looked at Office, and done some very creative things, and so to really give you a sense of why I’m excited about it, let me ask David Zanca, the Senior VP for e-Commerce there to come out and explain what they’re doing, and give you a look at their great applications.
DAVID ZANCA: Thanks, Bill. Good morning.
Well, you know, Microsoft and FedEx have a lot in common, but until I did a little bit of research I didn’t realize I had as much in common with Bill as I do. We both started our IT careers at about the same time. Now, I was writing CICS COBOL code, and Bill was starting by creating an industry. I’ll bet you my code is still running someplace, though. Then I just saw, I didn’t realize this, but I just saw that we both have been honing our Guitar Hero skills. Of course, our ambitions are a little different. I’m trying to compete against my son when he comes home from college, Bill is trying to get a gig with Bono.
Honestly, the comparisons between FedEx and Microsoft are a little more relevant. Each were founded and led by visionary business leaders, Microsoft Bill Gates, FedEx Fred Smith. And each had tremendous passion and belief in the industry and what they were creating.
Now, today each is a major global dominant brand. This morning and at this conference Microsoft is going to share with you exciting opportunities on how to build applications on top of the Microsoft Office platform, and I’m thrilled to be here to share with you, on behalf of FedEx one such application, FedEx QuickShip.
Now, FedEx QuickShip is a new each way to use FedEx tools inside of your own environment, right from Microsoft Office. It’s built on the Microsoft Office platform, and it is available starting today for download from FedEx.com. So this is its public announcement.
I’m confident that when you see this you’ll agree with me that it’s going to make your shipping experience a lot easier. Then we’re going to show you even more. As Bill said, Microsoft Office is ubiquitous. So it makes sense for us to leverage that as a development platform for our services. But, Microsoft SharePoint is growing rapidly, so we’re thinking of ways to build Web parts to integrate that into our capabilities with SharePoint, leverage our Web services, and create value added services for our customers.
That’s what you expect from FedEx. So as we show you some of these innovations, hopefully you’ll get some ideas how you could build add-ins, plug-ins, Web parts, as part of the Microsoft Office environment. And hopefully you’ll find how we can help you through our developer resource center to be a success, more about the developer resource center in a minute. Now, let’s see some of these examples. Let’s see how FedEx and Microsoft have put our collective imaginations together. To do that I’m going to invite one of my team members, John Finney, to come on up and help me with these demonstrations.
John, welcome. (Applause.)
While John is getting set, let me thank our Microsoft consulting services partners, and Interknowledgy for their help with the technology we’re using in these demonstrations. Now, as I mentioned, FedEx QuickShip is built using Microsoft built for Microsoft Office. It’s build using Microsoft Visual Studio, and our FedEx Web services. After you download and install it, it works as a feature inside of Microsoft Outlook. So as an example, let’s say John works for a company that ships lost items back to their owners. Now, he’s just like you and me, the application on his desktop that’s open most of the time during the day is Microsoft Outlook, he works from it.
So here you can see his inbox. He’s got a pretty good business. He’s got a global clientele, working with people like Little Bo Peep, and Austin Powers, and others, trying to find lost items. But, his most important customer is the very first one, Bill Gates. Now, Bill is looking for a lost guitar. And John and his team have found it. Now, of course, right here from Microsoft Outlook John is able to ship via FedEx, and it’s going to be very simple. To do this he just clicks on contacts, he chooses Bill Gates, he selects send a shipment, then he selects ship. And from Microsoft Outlook we’re sending to our Web services a request and returning a label. Now, his shipment will be ready to go.
Could it be easier than that? (Applause.) Now, up at the top he can view history, he can look at all the shipments he’s made, take other actions on those shipments. That’s resident right inside of Outlook. Meanwhile, you see a new FedEx toolbar. So not only could he ship, but John could track a package, he could get a rate quote, he can request a pickup, he can request a lot of other services that we provide via our Web services.
So what we’re showing you is the capability to embed inside of Outlook, that’s where your contacts are, that’s where the addresses are that you need to ship, and that’s where you spend a lot of your time. So remember, FedEx QuickShip, it’s available today for download from FedEx.com.
Now, let me give you another example. So in addition to that shipment that he’s sending to Bill, John needs to print and bind a document to send to Bill. So where are most documents created? Inside of Microsoft Office. So in this example John is working from Microsoft Office Word, and as you can see in the very top, we’ve embedded a FedEx Kinkos beacon up there. By selecting that John can choose the document that’s open in Word, and send that to our FedEx print Web services, or to our print online application. From there, he can choose the various finishing options, and complete that transaction.
What we’re showing and demonstrating is the capability to integrate from within Word to our print Web services. But, we can take this a step further, and this is really cool.
By taking advantage of other Microsoft Office development tools that are now a part of Microsoft Visual Studio 2008, we can embed comprehensive finishing options into the Microsoft Office Fluent UI. The Microsoft Office Fluent UI, I think you all would call that the ribbon. So now John opens it up, and he can go across over to the preview panel, see all those panels up there, by choosing preview on the right hand side you have a preview of the document. He can go across the panels and he can change the finishing options. So let’s change from black and white and color, toggle back and forth, give you a feel for that.
He can go through all the rest of the panels, he can change the stapling or the folding. But, in this case we want to bind the document. So he goes to the bind option, and in this case let’s choose coil, and there it is. Now, once he has the document the way he wants it, he presses submit, and again, it’s sent off to our print Web services. He’s doing all of that from within Word. The capabilities, the robust capabilities are really incredible, fantastic. Now, he can also integrate that, and not just print it, but he can integrate that with shipping, and he can have the document shipped.
So in this example we’ve created an Office add-in that leverages Web services all from Microsoft Word. Now, remember earlier I mentioned that SharePoint is growing rapidly. John could have saved that document from Word to SharePoint, and then from SharePoint, using a Web part, he could have submitted that from print, straight from the SharePoint document library. The concept is really simple, wherever you generate a document or your store it, we want to be there to use our print services. Wherever you work inside of Microsoft Office, we want to be there to enable you, and to engage with you to provide our services.
Now, how can John be sure that package he sent to Bill is safely on its way? Well, in 1978 our Chairman Fred Smith said the information about a package is as important as the package itself. So we’ve been very diligent in leading the industry building tracking technology. In fact, we receive about 7 million tracking requests a day. Most of those come to us electronically. That’s because our customers want to engage with us on their terms, how they want to engage with us.
So let me show you one last demonstration. So that package that we sent to Bill, let’s take a look at that and track it, from SharePoint. The concept here is we’re building a Web part, embedding it inside of SharePoint, and we’re tracking it. And we see here with the tracking data that the package has made its say to San Jose safely. Well, with that I’m going to wrap up here, but let me just take a moment and ask you to just say thanks to John, his development team that built FedEx QuickShip, and these various demonstrations. Well done. (Applause.)
Our intent is to imagine and develop services that can make you into a hero in your organization, and one way to do that is to leverage the developer resource center. So let me take a second there. This is FedEx.com, it’s a way for you to access our interactive documentation, our development aids, code snippets, plug-ins, best practices, with the help of this you could easily develop a tailored application that makes sense for your organization. All the innovative solutions that you’ve seen on the stage today are the type of things that FedEx wants to empower you with to build in your environment.
Now, I encourage you to attend our technical breakout, meet our developers, see some real code, asking questions about our technical solutions, stop by our FedEx wireless cafe, and then come by our booth in the exhibition hall. And in your conference bag there is some more information to help you understand the power of the access that we’re making available to you today.
So in conclusion, everything I’ve shown you today, and every technology innovation that we work on at FedEx, is part of our commitment to what we call Access. Access is a concept similar to Microsoft’s idea of connections. Access is the primary connector of people, companies, cultures, nations, with goods, and services, and ideas, and information all around the globe. Access can be physical, and it can be digital. And at FedEx we use a term called the Access Generation, not defined by a group by age or geography, but it’s a group that believes that today almost anything is possible. Clearly, Bill Gates, and Fred Smith continue to believe in all the possibilities. And what we’re providing you here today is the possibility of access. These are tools and techniques that give you access, information, and services, where you want it.
So let me invite Bill to come back up. (Applause.) Bill, that package we shipped is already here.
BILL GATES: Boy, that’s quick service.
DAVID ZANCA: We deliver fast.
BILL GATES: Looks good. (Applause.)
DAVID ZANCA: How about we take a look at it, and see what’s in it. There it is. Would you mind if we were to maybe give this away to one lucky participant in the conference?
BILL GATES: That would be great.
DAVID ZANCA: All right. Well, we’ll take care of that. We’ll have people register at our booth in the expo hall, and we’ll find a lucky winner.
Thank you so much. Good to see you.
BILL GATES: Thanks, David.
DAVID ZANCA: Fantastic.
BILL GATES: Well, the FedEx application you saw really spans the different areas I talked about. They had client programming, they had server programming, additions to SharePoint, and they were connecting up to their own Web services. So now I want to just step through and take each of those areas of development and talk about some of the new opportunities, and some examples of applications that are driving those forward. So we start on the client, and there are several ways to connect up in the client.
You can actually connect into the user interface itself, as was mentioned, we talk about the new Office 2007 UI that’s characterized by that ribbon as the Fluent UI. And we make that UI available to people to license, it’s actually royalty-free, and we’ve had over 2,600 people come and license that. Within the application we also let you take over the task pane, and you can display, using a variety of technologies there, you can bring in Web site things, you can bring in rich forms and interactions with InfoPath, a lot of capability to bring your approach to interaction into the experience.
Another way to connect up, of course, is the object model that the applications have. That gives you efficient access to the data structures, and the capability of the applications. When the application is running it’s got that object model activated. Another way of connecting is one that there’s been a huge advance in, and this is working with the platform apps themselves. Now, traditionally these were quite complex binary file formats, and the concept across the different modules were very different, and from version to version these binary files would require you to really rethink your logic and what was changing with each of those.
We made a decision many years ago to bet on XML. In fact, the origins of XML go back to some document interchange work back in the mid-’90s that Microsoft and some other companies drove. And it’s been phenomenal to see how that bet on XML has really driven broad industry activities. The number of standards around XML is really phenomenal, and so we’re using that in a very native way throughout all Microsoft software. And a great example of that, of course, is that the default file format for the Office applications is the Open XML format, and that means getting in, adding information, reading out information is now very straightforward. In fact, through our libraries reading named ranges, writing to those ranges, becomes very straightforward. So that is an important way that client developers can connect up to Office documents.
So let’s go through a few examples. One that I think is a great example of how extensible Excel is is what we call AdSage. And here we’ve basically, with writing only a few thousand lines of code, created a completely custom application, but it’s got the full power of Excel. Now, this happens to be a task where you’re taking your online advertising and looking at the performance of different keywords.
So the ability to graph, and compare, and to see things that are above an expected threshold, all of that display power of Excel is incredibly important. But, you can see up in the ribbon there it doesn’t look like an Excel ribbon, it really is related to this particular task. So full power of pivot tables, conditional formatting, all those things, but aimed at this particular task. So we’re seeing a lot of people now take Excel and the ribbon and do this kind of thing.
The next example is a third party example, and this is what’s called the MindJet Mind Manager. They, again, are one of the people who are taking that Office 2007 UI, the Fluent UI, and taking advantage of it. They’ve done a very good job of this. Here their application is about people who are brainstorming and planning, and so the visualizations are different than the other Office modules, and yet some of the concepts of how you interact, how you select, how you format, you want those things to be the same. So their ability to take elements of the UI, including the ribbon, and map them into their application, Mind Manager, lets somebody who is familiar with Office immediately sit down and be able to use the application.
I’ll mention that with Office 2007 the Fluent UI with the ribbon represented a major risk that Microsoft took, after all, for many years that File, Edit, View menu that we had created in our Windows and Mac applications, that was the standard way things were done. And yet we saw that that was hiding the functionality, the fact that you had those dropdowns were getting longer, and longer, and you weren’t even sure which menu things were underneath. It meant that many of the features we were being asked to put in our applications were features that were already in the applications.
And so we said, well, if we don’t change the UI, what is it we’re going to do to make sure people are getting X of these, say, formatting capabilities. And the answer was that we really needed to do something different. And so the Ribbon was that change. We usability tested it massively, and fortunately it has had a very strong positive reaction.
We actually have a lot of versions of Office where people give us permission to instrument it so we see what commands they’re using. And, in fact, it’s very clear now that people are using a far broader set of Office capabilities because it’s up there and visual to them as they are picking the Ribbon and setting that to the tasks that they’re doing.
Likewise, the customers for My Manager for this version, the Pro 7 version, raved about new features that were in previous versions, but were only easy to find because of this Ribbon-based UI. So we’re very pleased to see that, and we’re pleased to see people taking this and building their applications. In fact, we in the next version of Windows will be using this fluent UI quite a bit across a number of applications. And so the Ribbon really got started with Office 2007, but we see it spreading to all the really neat client applications. It turns out it’s the user interface that works very well for the pen and touch as well as being a better way of revealing application functionality.
Now I talked about this new document format, Open XML. When My Manager wants to output a Word document that has the information that you’ve pulled together in their application, they create a Word document. And because it’s standardized in this very rich way, you can take that document into Word, and make formatting changes, and then take it back into My Manager. Because it’s XML, they don’t have to understand all the different pieces, they just leave the things that are unique to Word alone, but they can take the parts that they understand and parse those. So you get this roundtripping without very complex code that would be fragile, and might end up being version dependent. So this format has made a very big difference. Open XML, we’ve had over 20 million downloads of the compatibility pack where we let previous versions of Office connect up and load and save in this format. So we built into Office 2003 the ability to have new format converters, and pull those down. And that’s meant that the transition in a company where you want to use this format, even if you have mixed versions of Office up there, have been fairly straightforward.
We also have a lot of partnerships where people are taking the Open XML and doing translators to various other formats. In fact, this translator project is one of the top 25 projects on Source Forge, and just even that piece the development piece for new converters has had over a half-a-million downloads. So Open XML, every important to us because of the way it can maintain rich relationships, and rich semantics, and yet let applications get at it in a native way. Open XML can fully represent the full richness of the Office application, and that’s important so you don’t lose your data. It is the standard format.
One other client example that I thought I’d give is called Xobni, it’s actually Inbox backwards, and this is where somebody has come into Outlook and decided to add value. They’ve taken the task pane that I talked about, so that you look over there on the right, that’s their unique display area, and they’re helping you understand who you send the most mail to, and how you communicate, and what groups of people you work with. In fact, this is really kind of a social networking set of capabilities but brought into Outlook itself. And so we think it’s very, very cool. They’re able to look at mail messages and extract information, they give you statistics about the e-mail patterns, and it lets you manage relationships. It doesn’t have the same it actually understands the richness of different types of relationships which, in fact, I think is the next generation of social networking, not just one set of friends who all see the same thing, but rather different relationships, and the way you connect up and share information is different. So this is a great example of having something like Xobni come in and extend things lets us see where do people want new capabilities in the Outlook type environment. So it’s using the rich extensibility. It’s using the object model to connect up. And so they were able to focus in on what they do, and not have to spend too much time learning about e-mail, and e-mail transport.
Now let’s move to the server piece and take some examples there. Of course, if you develop on the client, and connect up to our applications, then you get for free the way they connect up to the server, the way they connect up to the workflow. Likewise, if you develop on the server and work in SharePoint lists and data, the capabilities of SharePoint to connect to the Office client, you get all of that for free. So whichever piece you pick on this, the fact that it’s a broad architecture is very valuable.
Here again on the server there’s a number of ways to connect in. You can connect in the equivalent of Open XML here, starting at the bottom, is the business data connector. And this is super important. I think people, in a sense, haven’t recognized how important this is. When people in a corporate context want to find information and interact with it, they don’t just want to be searching documents. They want access to the structured information, and the applications information. For example, they want information out of the Active Directory. They want information out of the customer relationship management system. They want information out of the project tracking system. The last thing they want is a search that only goes and looks in documents. They want all of these data sources and, in fact, the structured data sources are often the key to navigating and finding the information that they want. And so corporate information finding is, in fact, not just like the Web. Some of those techniques are important, but you’ve got to get and connect up to all the data. You have to connect up and still preserver the idea that some of the data is only viewable by various people, so you have rights relationships there. The way that we have made a breakthrough on that is, we allow you to connect up to this SharePoint navigation through a business data connection, BDC it’s sometimes called. And this is a very big deal because we provide standard connections to Active Directory. So if you just say who is So-and-so, it can say what group they work in, it can show the documents that are related to the work they do, a very natural type of query that if you were document only you wouldn’t be able to understand. But it gets more powerful as we get the third party applications connected through that BDC as well. So that’s a fairly new thing that people are just recognizing.
Next level up, workflow, this is where we have this really amazing workflow engine built into SharePoint, and with some advances in Visual Studio now programming at a very deep level to that workflow logic, or end users setting up fairly straightforward workflow programs, that’s become very easy. And so these two base layers are really explosive because they’re fairly new, and yet they are directed at a very important need.
Now at the user interface level, there’s a lot of ways to connect in to SharePoint and its templates. You can build your own templates at the top level, and people can select those. But even within templates, having different type of pages or Web parts allows you to extend the standard horizontal type templates that we have. And, of course, through all of this you can connect up to any Web services. Your Web parts can call Web services, your business data connector can call the Web services. Those are sitting there across the side, as you see, available to all of these extensibility techniques. And so server level extensibility, there’s a lot of very big things going on.
A great example, and here the business data connector is the key element of it, is the way that we navigate our CRM data inside Microsoft. When people had to go out to a separate application with its own UI and do their separate navigation, and then come back in and find internal documents that related to that customer or that project, those are separate things, the frustration level is very high. And it was not very heavily used. But what we’ve got now, because of that connector is, you just go to the one SharePoint place, and as you type in the name of a customer, you find immediately the Siebold records related to that, but also who, which account manager is involved, what documents there have been, what projects relate to that, all the information across the different application types, but the key one is that it’s connected in to Siebold through that data connector. And so the usefulness of CRM, and the usefulness of portal is really only that significant when those two are brought together. If you think of CRM and portal as two separate things, it’s very tough for the employee to basically have to integrate across those.
The next example I picked is one called PNMsoft. It’s a company. They’re a partner in Israel, and they have a business process management solution called Sequence. And here they’re connecting up to BizTalk Server, and so if you have workflows that relate to transactions, or analysis, that’s very straightforward. They connect in so you get rich visualization on the information, and here a lot of their information they’re connecting into the Oracle applications, like purchasing, HR, and finance. We have, of course, a huge amount of innovation going on in workflow and business intelligence, and your data that you want to do business intelligence on comes from many sources. It comes from your ERP applications, it comes from external sources, it comes from things that were done bottoms up, maybe in Excel type analysis, and being able to pull that all together into a horizontal platform that’s very simple to use, and yet has all this data makes a very big difference. And so we have had a lot of customers take this Sequence and use it to bring their Oracle information into this environment. They’ve done a great job on fast deployments, so after three months at a global telcom company, they were able to connect up 30 processes inside this company being used by over 15,000 employees. And these processes without the connection to the ERP from this workflow environment, it couldn’t have been done. It couldn’t have been done in workflow alone, it couldn’t have been done in ERP alone. It’s by bringing those together that these processes could be made digital and simple for this broad set of employees. So that’s another great example.
My last server example is E-SPONDER, and this is using the extensions where you can put in new templates, and put in new logic. In fact, this is a template that is done by Convergence Communications, and one of their customers is the Tampa Bay Police Department. So they take all their information coming from mobile devices, or Office documents, or reports from the field out of forms, and bring those together into a very rich portal. And so this portal can track things. It can let you query these things. It can let you write up information. IT can let you see organization charts, and how things are being handled. And when they have a large scale event, like Mardi Gras, or the Super Bowl, they need this type of rich information navigation. And so you have special user interface capability at the template level, and parts capability, but it gets the full power of this SharePoint platform for what they want to do. So that’s a great example where they’re really taking the full richness at that server level and pulling it together.
I mentioned Visual Studio as a key element in this. We want to make development easy for end users, but we want to have no limits. And so in Visual Studio, we let you take all the different programming languages that we’ve got, the C++, C#, Visual Basic, any of the extensions that have been on top of .NET, and let you get at all the capabilities in these applications. Visual Studio 2008 is just coming out. It’s got its official launch at the end of this month. And this is the first time that Visual Studio Tools for Office are now part of the professional and team systems of Visual Studio. If you want to do a workflow project for SharePoint, you can just do that right inside Visual Studio. You can run it, debug it. If you want to build extensions to Outlook Forms, you just do that right inside Visual Studio. There’s a designer that makes it easy to do these Ribbon fluent UI type applications. Of course, there’s a lot of richness that has to do with XML, and the ability to read and parse any XML including these Open XML file formats.
And so this development environment is the one that for the most ambitious applications people will use to build Office-based applications. Visual Studio 2008 is where we’ve had the innovations like LINQ that lets you navigate data sets, and we’re connecting that up to the Office state as well. It’s where we’ve got the advances for Web services, what we call the Communications Framework, and the Workflow Framework. So modern applications are a lot easier to write. You don’t have to write a lot of the run-time for connecting up all these communications capabilities, and workflow capabilities. That run-time is just there. For rich presentation, we’ve got traditional Windows capabilities, and we also have the WPF capabilities for even more advanced user experiences.
Connecting up to services is a big part of this. I said that’s the third leg here. We’ve got client, server, and services, and we’re investing a lot in this area. We’ve got a range of offerings that we’ll have for the smallest businesses all the way up to the very largest. And we see it being for many companies a hybrid where they’ll run things on premise, and they’ll run some things off premise. Doing this in exactly the right way so they get the reliability, the customizability, the responsiveness that they expect so that if there’s ever a problem they know exactly who to turn to and how to get that problem solved. There’s a lot of invention going on to make this work very well. In the late ’90s, some people thought, oh, this will happen overnight. There will be this transition. Well, in fact, the software, and the management of the software, and the administrative model, and the extensibility models of the software were not rich enough. In fact, in the late ’90s, the Web really was just about presentation. We didn’t have the right data formats or protocols. Now we have XML for data formats, we have Web services to connect things together, but there’s a whole other layer of innovation to make sure that the service guarantees and reliability let companies easily move things from on premise to off premise, and still have all their applications work together, all the rich things that they’re used to. We’re involved in this through Office Live. Office Live is off to a very strong start. We also have a new offering, which is our Dynamic CRM Version 4 that just now is coming out. That also is a hosted offering, and so figuring out how we get the extensibility models to be common across these, and provide this choice, that’s something were investing very heavily in.
We have a new version of the Office Live Small Business Offering that we’re just announcing today. This first actually came out in late 2006, and now we have over 600,000 subscribers. A lot of new features. We take feedback, people tell us new things they want to see, things like online marketing, contact management, e-mail marketing, a lot of things that relate to e-commerce who this customer set is very interested in, and a lot of these capabilities are free with the base offering, and we have additional services. We’re bringing third parties into this more. In fact, tomorrow morning the keynote will be by Rajesh Jha, and he’ll talk about the partner opportunities, and give examples of how partners are connecting up to the Office Live Small Business Edition. So that’s tomorrow morning, it’s at the same time that we started this morning, at 9:00 in the morning.
These online-hosted services are becoming more powerful, but they’re not done in isolation. They connect up to the client applications. They connect up to on premise server applications. So to give you a sense of the innovation here, and how it connects up to our common platform strategy, let me ask Brian Jeans who is the group program manager for Live Small Business come up and show us some of the new things. Welcome. (Applause.)
BRIAN JEANS: So here in business applications this is hosted SharePoint, and it’s free hosted SharePoint. I have a list of my solutions. I’m going to select the FEDEX shipment tracker. And in this example, we show you how you take Office Live and extend with other third party Web services. So what I’m going to do is, I have a set of recipients here that have received shipments, and we can view the shipments, and then real-time as I select a tracking number, you see we make a real-time call out to FEDEX and bring in those results.
Now for FEDEX, what it offers you is the ability to put this solution in front of the more than 600,000 users of Office Live Small Business today.
In the next example, what I want to show is taking that SharePoint data and projecting it on the public Web site. So here we have the Contoso agent desktop, and again we start with a custom SharePoint list. As I make changes to this list, and these are my realtor listings, what I want is those changes to automatically be reflected on the public Web site. So now let’s go over to our Web site hosting tool, so Web site and what I’m going to do is create a new page, and here it says templates. I’m going to use a custom template we’ve created for this real estate site. Give it a title. And now what you see here is the Office Live Site Designer Tool. And this is where you create and edit Web pages. So now I will change the text, see my listings, and I’m going to insert one of our custom modules.
Now if I were creating a form and posting data into SharePoint, I would use the Form Publisher. In this case, I’m pulling data from SharePoint, so I’m going to use the List Publisher. And you see here it selects from the different lists of SharePoint applications that we’ve installed. I’ll choose the agent desktop, select out listings. I can change the display name, and we’ll choose okay. And so you see here that list has been brought in from SharePoint. Now what I want to do is make this look a little fancier. So bring in the properties, and change the layout, and I can use one of our sample layouts, or in this case what I’m going to do is edit the XSLT and go here into SharePoint Designer. Now what I’m going to do is, I’m going to change the formatting, but also make a mashup with Virtual Earth. So I’m going to copy this, and paste it into here, and choose okay. So now we’re bringing in the image. I’m going to save this page and view the Web site. So now here you have your listings again. As I updated in SharePoint, those listings will automatically be reflected on this page. And if I show the map, you see the mapping there with Virtual Earth. And so in this case you see the SharePoint data projected onto a public Web site mashed up with a third party Web service.
Now tomorrow what we’re going to do is show all these services in more detail, and what I encourage you to do is to go to Dev.OfficeLive.com, and get a free developer account where you can try out these services. Thank you. (Applause.)
BILL GATES: Looking ahead, our investment in the Office platform is greater today than it’s ever been. In fact, the level of ambition in terms of how we improve the way work gets done is much greater today than ever before. Taking all the data from applications and giving you rich visualization capabilities; putting that into a workflow environment; giving you business intelligence tools that would have been very niche, low volume oriented, but making those accessible to all the employees so they can navigate the information that counts; letting you model your business in the different possibilities; letting you have key indictors so people come in and see red, yellow, green at the start of their day and can dive in and see data down to the lowest level of detail that will help them decide what they should prioritize.
It’s also very ambitious in terms of connecting up the communication world, taking the telephony world, and the e-mail world, and instant messaging world, and mobile world, and bringing those together into a common environment. So we have a vision there of unified communications. We’re thinking about how data is presented in meetings, and how even the physical environment of the whiteboard and the desk, and those things work.
We’re hard at work on a new version of Office, we just call it Office 14 internally, that’s the name we use for it. We have a lot of the people from the Office group down for this conference, so a key goal here is not just to tell you about our development platform, but also to hear from you on where you’d like to see us do more, what’s complex for you, and make sure as we’re doing this next version that we get in the right things so that your creativity can be more efficient, so that you’re not finding Office difficult. In fact, you’re getting the full benefit of those huge investments that we’re making. So we’re moving to new UI, we’re moving to new ambition, we’re moving to this services world, and connecting that up to make it complementary, a lot of important things going on, and I think that creates opportunities both for us and for you in making the Office environment even better. Thank you.