Office “14” slips further

During his annual briefing of US analysts at the end of February, Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer confirmed what I’ve been saying for a while now, that Office “14” is not going to ship in 2009. Many people had been expecting it to be released to manufacturing towards the end of 2009, and some had even speculated that it would ship at the same time as Windows 7 – after all, Microsoft has merged launches of Windows and Office versions in the past, as for example Windows Vista with Office 2007, and back in 2001 when it disastrously allowed its marketing wonks to call the products Windows XP and Office XP (thus causing irrevocable confusion to a whole generation of users). The current word from Microsoft is that Windows 7 is still on course to ship in Q3 2009, although it could slip if significant problems are encountered during the current beta testing. However, with the Office “14” beta programme not expected to start before “this summer”, we’ll be lucky to see it on the shelves before Q2 or even Q3 of 2010, a full year after it was first expected. SharePoint “14” is also likely to be released at the same time as it’s so closely allied to Microsoft Office, and this will include the free SharePoint Services and its paid-for bigger brother, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server. Even though we’ve only had Office Communications Server 2007 R2 for a month now, it’s also possible that the next version of OCS (OCS 2010) will ship around the same time.

Office

Now people who bought Software Assurance for Office 2007 when it shipped at the tail-end of 2006 will rightly be getting nervous, since their three-year agreements are almost up and they haven’t seen any return on the money they invested in it. Effectively, they paid up-front for upgrades that haven’t materialised. People who are in this position need to decide whether to keep the faith and renew their agreements, or cut their losses and not renew.

In the past, each new version of Office has shipped approximately 30 to 36 months after the previous version, so three-year Software Assurance deals have worked out well for those who bought into them: Office 14’s gestation period now looks as though it might stretch to around 42 months – that is, half a year more than the contract period, which could precipitate much soul-and-wallet searching among CIOs, and some financial difficulty for Microsoft if large numbers of customers complain or ditch their SA agreements in order to save money as the credit crunch squeezes harder. In these uncertain times I’m certain of one thing – the longer Microsoft stays silent on the progress of Office “14” the worse the situation will get. It needs to get the beta out pronto and start talking to customers about the delivery plans if it wants them to stay loyal.

The power of Quince

Infragistics, which makes very nice user interface controls for Windows Forms, WPF, Silverlight and ASP.NET applications, has just introduced a smart new Silverlight-powered website called Quince, http://quince.infragistics.com. Quince is a community tool that lets you explore and contribute to a growing library of UI design patterns; that is, design schemes for a user interface that make it easier to use. Each pattern relates to a little piece of UI functionality such as data validation, modal dialogs, filtering or whatever, and Quince explains with examples from real-world applications when you might use that pattern and how you might implement it. Users can contribute by adding text to say how they think the pattern might be changed or improved, adding extra examples or simply voting by saying “I use this”, so that future users can see which patterns are most popular.

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