Top-line thoughts on Microsoft Office 2010

I attended a briefing this morning with Microsoft Canada (NASDAQ: MSFT) about its Technical Preview of Office 2010. And it turns out my colleague Paolo Del Nibletto is also on the story down at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans. So I’ll leave the channel partner opportunity/reaction to him, and instead share some top line observations and thoughts on the Office 2010 briefing.

* Microsoft is going bigger with search in 2010, embedding itthroughout the application suite. The improved search is probably myfavourite feature of Windows Vista, so I’m glad search is beingimproved within Office as well.

* When I attended the 2006 edition of Microsoft’s WinHEC conference, Bill Gates told us Microsoft was moving its platform to 64-bit only.Three years later, they’re on the way but 32 bit isn’t going away.There will be 32-bit SKUs of Office 2010 available, primarily for theconsumer market, where 32-bit machines retain a broad audience.

* Hopefully you like the ribbon user interface that was introducedon some Office 2007 applications, such as Word and Excel, because itshere to say. And its expanding to include all the Office 2010applications, including Outlook and Sharepoint. Microsoft says it hasinvested significant resources in the ribbon, or Fluent UI, and itsresearch shows 60 per cent of users are finding more features with theribbon UI. Perhaps I’m the exception, but I’ve had Office 2007 on mylaptop back to the beta release and I’ve never gotten on board with thenew UI. Indeed, I found it more difficult to find things that I couldfind before. Nevertheless, the ribbon UI is here to stay.

* Office Web apps, Microsoft’s beefed-up competitor to Google Apps,is under a separate technical review program and is expected to bereleased for testing next month. But Microsoft did let some informationout. It will support Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. A seamlesstransition is promised between online, offline and desktop. And whilethey wouldn’t share details, Microsoft said they are looking atcompatibility with other online services.

* The ability to stream a presentation over the Web from directlywithin PowerPoint sounded promising, Unfortunately, the demo gremlinsintervened. Our Microsoft demo’er did have an iPhone on hand though,ready to demonstrate the ability to stream through the mobile Safaribrowser. New platform openness from Redmond?

* Cut and paste has been beefed-up. Microsoft said this is the mostcommonly used Office feature, followed, of course, by undo. Cut andpaste with formatting is now supported between all Office applications,and a preview feature allows a peak at how the paste will look beforeits pasted, with the option to choose different pasting options, suchas with or without formatting.

* From a file format perspective, its essentially status quo with.docx, which means conversion issues will remain for pre-Office 2007users. But at least there’s no .docxx, even if that also means noeventual .docxxx.

* Office 2010 will support print to PDF as an out-of-the-box feature, something that was an add-on with previous editions.

* Microsoft promises Office 2010 will support as far back as WindowsXP SP3 with full feature functionality. The vendor also says thefootprint of 2010 will be comparable to 2007.

*Finally, the delete conversation feature in Outlook 2010 is attracting opinions, as my colleague, Rafael Ruffolo, has blogged.

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