Microsoft branded Office "12" as "2007 Microsoft Office" and released more details about included products, packaging, and pricing of the updated system to be available at the end of this year. Microsoft's stated intention is to "increase individual impact, simplify collaboration, streamline business processes and content management, and improve business insight".
Here's my tentative reaction.
Groove 2007, an updated edition of Groove Virtual Office 3.x, is only included in Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007, the top-of-the-line package (which includes 10 separate products and a number of other capabilities). It can, however, be purchased separately. If Microsoft wanted to make Groove pervasive throughout the ranks of information workers, it should have included Groove in every package.
In order for Groove to work, enterprises must deploy the new Microsoft Office Groove Server 2007 for synchronization of Groove data, or subscribe to Office Groove Enterprise Services. For smaller organizations, Office Live Groove is a per-user subscription service which includes the client and a publicly-hosted relay service, at US$79 per user per year. This is a change from Groove's previous pricing approach of paying up-front for the client and getting the relay service at no charge.
Finally, Microsoft said that customers of Groove Virtual Office 3.x will not be forced to upgrade. The current service and support contract will remain in place (see groove.net). That's cool.
On Product Overlap
Three of the 10 products in Office Enterprise 2007 are related to communication and collaboration tasks: Outlook 2007 (email, calendar, offline synchronization with SharePoint), Communicator (presence, instant messaging, voice over IP), and Groove (shared workspaces, synchronization with SharePoint). Two of the products include electronic forms capabilities ... InfoPath 2007 and Groove 2007.
The vast majority of people will not need this top-of-the-line offering ... the overlap and apparent duplication of functionality will make this an exceedingly complex package to get one's head around, to use effectively within a group, and to use consistently for appropriate information management. I think Microsoft needs to fundamentally re-organize its individual products; just throwing more stuff into the box isn't going to make it any easier for individuals and teams to improve productivity and effectiveness. Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!
On Collaboration Complexity
Building a collaboration infrastructure using Microsoft technologies will require a plethora of servers to be deployed and managed. This represents a lot of specialized IT resource, numerous interlocked decision and upgrade points, and the need for very tight coordination across different products. I hope it works! The servers are:
- Office SharePoint Server 2007. Delivers portal services, content management, business insight, and business process capabilities (workflow?). Windows SharePoint Services will still be delivered from Windows Server.
- Office Project Server 2007. For project management. Covers the management of ad-hoc and complex projects.
- Office Project Portfolio Server 2007. For the management and governance of portfolios of projects. Enables prioritization of project investments in light of all options and opportunities.
- Office Forms Server 2007. For electronic forms management. User interaction is via a Web browser.
- Exchange Server 2007. For email, calendaring, and wireless messaging.
- Office Groove Server 2007. For synchronization between Groove spaces. Combines Groove Enterprise Management Server, Enterprise Relay Server, and Enterprise Data Bridge into an apparently single product. I say apparently because (a) there will still be three separately installable server components ... Office Groove Server 2007 Manager, Office Groove Server 2007 Relay, and Office Groove Server 2007 Data Bridge, and (b) each component is licensed separately.
- Office Live Communications Server. For presence, instant messaging, and federation with other organizations.
I'll sign up for the beta. It will be interesting to watch this play out.
Microsoft's Press Release
2007 Microsoft Office System Packaging
2007 Microsoft Office System Pricing
Microsoft Office Groove 2007: Frequently Asked Questions
Microsoft features software by Mass. firm in new Office, Boston.com
Butler Group: Microsoft Office is Dead, Long Live Networked Office, Tekrati
Office 2007 to Feature New Workflow and Collaboration Tools, InformationWeek