With the “wave” (yes, I did go there) of announcements from this past week from both Microsoft and Google has got me thinking about interoperability and innovation.  Given that customers and partners trust us to help make their people more productive and help them grow their businesses, both companies have enormous burdens to earn and maintain that trust.  I won’t comment on Google’s announcements this week (Tom Austin from Gartner said it all for me) but instead will turn towards some of the interesting announcements Microsoft made that show how we’re delivering both interoperability and innovation without the pomp and circumstance that you may get from other vendors.

Welcome Microsoft Office for Mac 2011!

You may not know it given the rhetoric thrown around between Microsoft and Apple, but Microsoft is the largest ISV, behind Apple, when it comes to the Mac.  This doesn’t mean we don’t have our fights like any good family does but it does mean we care deeply about the Mac user and making sure we deliver an integrated and innovative experience on the Mac.  Plus, we support Safari as a top tier web browser for many of our applications, both consumer and business.  I thought I’d give you a rundown of the top innovations I see in Office for the Mac 2011 which is due out in the next few months.

The Ribbon

Mac users can now get the simplicity and ease of use of the Ribbon while their friends in IT can get one way to train their users on how to use Office, both Windows and the Mac, which makes them smile.  In my personal experience, once people get past the newness of the Ribbon, they flourish in terms of speed and functions and features they use.  In fact, the Fluent UI has been adopted by Windows 7, SQL Server, and external companies such as Attachmate and MindJet.  Learn more about the Fluent UI - http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/office/aa973809.aspx


Figure 1: The Ribbon in Office for the Mac 2011

Outlook

Ok, I used to work in Exchange Server and wrote three books on Exchange Server and Outlook, so Outlook will always have a special place in my heart.  Not to take away from Entourage but people want Outlook.  Add on top support for the new conversation view and you have winner in Office for the Mac.  If you haven’t tried conversation view, you’re missing out.  It makes sorting through the morass of bits that we call inboxes much easier and faster than you could imagine.  I’m converted and will never go back to the flat received by date view again.  Want a browser only version?  Outlook Web Access (OWA) supports Safari so you will never be that far from your email or calendar.  Finally, got an iPhone?  It has ActiveSync so you can easily synchronize your email to your mobile device to work on the go.

Co-Authoring

In today’s world, we all have to work together with others to get our work done.  Just like its Windows counterpart, Office for the Mac gets co-authoring built-in.  Save your file to SharePoint or SkyDrive and you can be editing away with your co-workers in seconds.  Surrounded by those PC people?  Well, don't worry, the co-authoring works across the PC and the Mac so you can still share your content with your PC friends.  Again, your mileage may vary, but my personal experience with co-authoring is once you do it, you never go back to sharing via email again.  Please, please, please stop doing document_v1, document_v2, and document_v3 or trying to manage the slew of attachments.  Co-authoring will make your life simpler.

SharePoint and SkyDrive


Figure 2: Save to SharePoint or to SkyDrive, the choice is yours!

Being a former SharePoint person, I have to say kudos to the Office team for their seamless integration with SharePoint.  Customers are deploying SharePoint everywhere so it’s great to see the tight integration between SharePoint and Office for Mac 2011.  Before, Mac users had to download a companion to Office for the Mac to work with SharePoint.  Now, you can open and save right from your Office application to and from SharePoint.  Priceless!

So what if you’re a consumer and don’t have SharePoint.  Well, Office for the Mac hasn’t forgotten you.  Just sign up for a free Windows Live Skydrive account and with Office for the Mac, you’ll be opening and saving documents to/from SkyDrive in seconds.  Plus, with SkyDrive, you can use the new Office Web Apps to view and edit your documents on the go away from your Mac with any browser – IE, Safari or FireFox!

Hear from the Product Team

Don’t take my “word” for it.  Hear from the folks on the Office for the Mac team!

 

As Easy as. . . . Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch

I’ll admit it, I like dabbling in developer technologies whether it’s geeking out building SharePoint sites with Visual Studio or writing Javascript code for a website.  However, not everyone wants to be a code master.  In fact, most people want to write the least code to get the best job done.  One interesting announcement from Microsoft was the introduction of a new tool for people who write solutions but don’t want to be hardcore developers.  If you look across your company, you’ll see lots of these people – the person who writes your Access database solution to collect sales data or the person who is the Excel Macro or VBA guru or the person who builds SharePoint sites to automate document workflows.  I like to think of these folks as the VB6 crowd of old.  You want to build a business application first and foremost and the code is a means to the end.


Figure 3: Creating an application with LightSwitch is easy with pre-built templates

Fast forward to Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch and you’ve got a new tool that takes the simplicity of Office, the power of Visual Studio and the connectivity and interoperability of the Cloud and wraps it all together.  Usually when I look at these no-code or little code solutions, I’m skeptical in how far they can do before you have to crack open C# or Java to write what you need.  But, with LightSwitch, I was pleasantly surprised in how forward thinking it was in providing the right set of capabilities and the ability to extend these capabilities without having to leave the LightSwitch environment.  Plus, with its integration into Cloud technologies like Azure, your applications are set to move to the next generation platform whether you run it or you provision it from the cloud.


Figure 4: LightSwitch Connecting to Microsoft Office

The beta for LightSwitch is coming August 23rd so make sure to set aside some time in your schedule to check it out!

Whew!  That’s a lot to chew on for now.  Time to hit the beach and hear the crashing of some “waves”.