Microsoft today announced the availability of Service Pack 2 for Office 2007. What’s in it for Office 2007 users?
Users should notice the improved performance and stability of Outlook, better charting functionality in Excel, and more control over the appearance of SmartArt graphics.
On the server side, IT professionals will notice several enhancements to the security and performance of SharePoint Server 2007, including support for read-only content databases, improvements to forms-based authentication, and an STSADM command-line utility that enables administrators to scan sites that use the variations feature for errors. SharePoint Server will also feature better support for newer versions of the Firefox browser.
Also, having a wider array of file-format choices should really benefit customers. With SP2, Office 2007 now has built-in support for Open XML, ODF and PDF, along with the dozen or so other formats that were already supported in Office 2007.
Office 2007 users can download SP2 right away or wait for it via Microsoft Update where it will appear "no sooner than three months from now, and with at least 30 days notice."
When Microsoft christened their "Flash Killer" technology as Silverlight in April, 2007, one of the reference customers was Major League Baseball. Today Adobe announced that MLB is switching to Adobe’s Flash technology for their online video needs:
MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, and Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) today announced a two-year agreement in which MLB.com has selected the Adobe® Flash® Platform to deliver all of its live and on-demand video offerings beginning in 2009. In addition, MLB.com will provide a downloadable rich Internet application (RIA) built using Adobe AIR™, so baseball fans can access additional features outside the Web browser.
MLB.com streams live every Major League spring training, regular season and postseason game, more than 2,500 annually, via its out-of-market subscription product, which has seen more than 1.5 million total subscribers since its debut on Opening Day 2003. Since that time, fans have accessed more than 1.8 billion streams of live and on-demand multimedia offerings on MLB.com, representing nearly 200 million hours of participation. By the end of 2008, MLB.com will once again stream nearly 12,000 live video events, including Major League Baseball games and thousands of events for its various business partners.
There’s no word on any functional basis for the switch or on financial terms, but Adobe is undoubtedly paying for the privilege.
This week Microsoft released version 2 of Silverlight, their alternative to Adobe Flash for providing Rich Internet Applications (RIAs). There were various functional enhancements including the promised Silverlight DRM for content protection as well as new cross platform support (see Tim Anderson’s caveat), but I found myself counting the house:
We launched Silverlight just over a year ago, and already one in four consumers worldwide has access to a computer with Silverlight already installed,” said Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the .NET Developer Division at Microsoft.
Silverlight adoption continues to grow rapidly, with penetration in some countries approaching 50 percent and a growing ecosystem that includes more than 150 partners and tens of thousands of applications. During the 17 days of the 2008 Olympics Games in Beijing, NBCOlympics.com, powered by Silverlight, had more than 50 million unique visitors, resulting in 1.3 billion page views, 70 million video streams and 600 million minutes of video watched, increasing the average time on the site (from 3 minutes to 27 minutes) and Silverlight market penetration in the U.S. by more than 30 percent. Broadcasters in France (France Televisions SA), the Netherlands (NOS), Russia (Sportbox.ru) and Italy (RAI) also chose Silverlight to deliver Olympics coverage online. In addition, leading companies such as CBS College Sports, Blockbuster Inc., Hard Rock Cafe International Inc., Yahoo! Japan, AOL LLC, Toyota Motor Corp., HSN Inc. and Tencent Inc. are building their next-generation experiences using Silverlight.
Microsoft’s goal is to reach the point where the average, unsubsidized Web developer building a rich content site makes the decision for Flash or Silverlight based on other criteria than the ubiquity of the respective browser plug-ins. They clearly haven’t achieved that yet, but it appears that they have made good progress.
Microsoft announced today that starting in 2009 all Hewlett-Packard consumer Windows PCs distributed in the USA and Canada will be preloaded with Live Search as the default Web search engine in Internet Explorer and with a custom Live Search enabled toolbar featuring their Silverlight technology. HP had previously been signed up with Yahoo.
Danny Sullivan has a nice table of PC OEMs, their US market share, and the search engine they have signed up with and adding HP clearly is a leg up for Microsoft since HP is a strong number 2 (24%) to Dell (31%) who signed with Google in 2006. Before this HP deal, Microsoft only had Lenovo whose US share was minimal.
The question, of course, is how many users actually stick with the OEM presets for IE or change them or switch to Firefox (which defaults to Google). All of the search engines track the sourcing from toolbars and preloads (use one of them for a search query and check the parameters on the URL) so they have a good idea on traffic and ROI at least after one of these deals is started, but Microsoft undoubtedly has more than ROI on their mind.
First Microsoft has to grow beyond their single digit Web search share if their advertising aspirations are to be realized and this is one way of doing that. Second, a Silverlight toolbar means a Silverlight preload which Microsoft had yet to ante up for with the OEMs and that’s critical if they expect to get their Adobe Flash killer off the ground. There’s been no insight into what sort of bidding went on for the HP eyeballs, but there are lots of reasons why Microsoft would not want to be outbid.