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November 22, 2006

Microsoft willing to license Office 2007 UI

Posted by David Hunter at 10:53 AM ET.

Here’s a head scratcher – Microsoft to Share Significant UI Investment in 2007 Microsoft Office Applications with Partner Community:

Later this month, Microsoft will make the 2007 Microsoft Office system broadly available to volume license customers. This new version of the world-leading productivity software solution includes popular application suites such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook. The new release marks the most significant advancements to Microsoft Office in over a decade and includes a newly redesigned user interface intended to help customers get more out of their desktop applications. The new UI represents a massive R&D investment and is a big step forward in terms of simplicity, ease of use and end-user productivity. By licensing this intellectual property, Microsoft seeks to allow partners to take advantage of its large R&D investment in order to benefit users.

To that end, Microsoft has created a royalty-free licensing program that will enable developers to build applications that have the look and feel of the new 2007 Office system applications. The new program will license elements of the new UI to software developers and component vendors on a royalty-free basis.

Aside from the fact that the Office 2007 user interface with its ubiquitous “ribbon” isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea, you will have to be somewhat of a masochist to license it since Microsoft apparently had the lawyers design the licensing program:

The question that naturally arises isn’t whether there are strings attached, but rather how many. Today the answer came: As Office 2007′s “chief stylist” Jensen Harris announced on his blog, along with the perpetual, royalty-free license will be a 120+ page document detailing the precise use of Microsoft’s meticulously designed features.

For licensees to remain protected, they must abide by these guidelines, which will apparently be as extensive and strict as were the original Common User Access guidelines from IBM almost 19 years ago.

A check of MSDN’s new Office UI licensing site reveals that the guidelines have yet to be completed, though the license itself is available, and mandates that licensees must follow those guidelines. A quick read of the two-page license does not indicate that licensees must disclose any information, or are under any obligation to provide any feedback to Microsoft whatsoever. So the extent of the “little bit of information” to which Harris refers, isn’t clear.

However, the license does state that if Microsoft makes changes to its guidelines, or if the company believes a licensee is not in compliance, it will notify the licensee of the changes it needs to make to its software to remain in compliance, and give the licensee six months to produce adequate changes.

There’s more by following the link, but you get the idea.  All of this begs the question of why one would want to use the Office UI in the first place since the usual route of developers enamored of Office is to use the Visual Studio tools for creating applications for Office itself (e.g. Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office (VSTO), not to mention VBA and VSTA) and that is separate from this license. From the Q&A at the first link:

Just to be clear, Office is a great platform for developers to build into the application UI, and for this you do not need a license. We provide great tools to do this that leverage this extensibility and for many, this will be all they need. For those that want to build their own UI that takes advantage of our design guidelines, they will need a license.

Microsoft says that partners were clamoring for this licensing option, but it’s sure hard to see why. It’ll be interesting to see how many applications actually appear that are using it.

Filed under General Business, Licensing, Microsoft, Office, Office 2007, Tools, VBA, VSTA, VSTO

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November 8, 2006

At long last, Vista?

Posted by David Hunter at 10:43 AM ET.

The rumor of Vista RTM on Monday didn’t pan out, but Mary Jo Foley says today’s the real deal:

The day has finally come: Windows Vista is going gold. And the public announcement that Windows Vista has been released to manufacturing is going to happen tomorrow, November 8, around 11 a.m. PST, sources close to the company are saying.

The main course must be close, because yesterday we got the appetizers as Microsoft released the .NET Framework 3.0, Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office for the 2007 Microsoft Office system, ASP.NET AJAX and Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition:

The technologies announced today include the following:

• The release to manufacturing of Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0, which provides advances for building rich, interactive client applications (Windows Presentation Foundation), communication and workflow (Windows Communication Foundation and Windows Workflow Foundation) and online identity management (Windows CardSpace).

• The availability to MSDN® Premium subscribers of Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office system on release to manufacturing.

• The availability of Visual Studio 2005 extensions for the .NET Framework 3.0, a series of plug-ins and project templates that enable developers to use Visual Studio 2005 to build .NET Framework 3.0 solutions.

• The release to manufacturing of Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office for the 2007 Microsoft Office system to build solutions for the six major applications in the 2007 Microsoft Office system: Office Word, Office Excel®, Office Outlook®, Office PowerPoint®, Office Visio® and Office InfoPath®. Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office for the 2007 Microsoft Office system enables developers to build scalable, robust line-of-business applications that leverage the functionality of the 2007 Microsoft Office system.

• Beta 2 of ASP.NET AJAX Extensions and the Microsoft Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) Library (collectively called ASP.NET AJAX), formerly codenamed “Atlas,” is a free framework that allows developers to quickly create a new generation of more-efficient, more-interactive and highly personalized Web experiences that work across the most popular browsers.

• The release candidate of Microsoft SQL Server™ 2005 Compact Edition, a new offering for essential relational database functionality in a compact footprint. By sharing a familiar SQL Server syntax and common ADO.NET programming model with other editions of SQL Server, SQL Server Compact Edition allows developers and administrators to apply their existing skills and be immediately productive. The release candidate is available via download at

All of the above are available now. Still in the oven however is SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 2 (SP2) for which a new Community Technology Preview (CTP) was released yesterday. It’s required for Vista because, as mentioned here previously, it provides SQL Server Express Edition which replaces the Microsoft Desktop Engine (MSDE) used by some Microsoft and 3rd party applications, but which is not supported on Vista.

Ensuring Vista application compatibility isn’t glamorous, but it’s critical for rapid Vista uptake (particularly in large organizations) and Microsoft is trying to ease the pain with the release candidate of the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) 5 which was just posted.

Filed under .NET 3.0, AJAX, ASP.NET AJAX, Beta and CTP, Microsoft, OS - Client, Office, Office 2007, SQL Server, Servers, Technologies, Tools, VS 2005, VSTO, WCF, WPF, Windows Vista

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September 15, 2006

Microsoft releases VSTO beta for Office 2007

Posted by David Hunter at 11:54 AM ET.

The Office 2007 Beta 2 Technical Refresh was delivered yesterday and so was a beta of the Visual Studio tooling for developing applications using Office 2007. Microsoft CVP S. “Soma” Somasegar has the news at his weblog:

As a part of supporting Office development, I’m very pleased to announce the beta release of Visual Studio 2005 Tools for the 2007 Microsoft Office System (Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office Second Edition Beta, or VSTO 2005 SE Beta for short), which empowers developers to build applications targeting the 2007 Office system using their existing Visual Studio development skills.

This Visual Studio add-in will be fully supported and is available free to all users of Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition or Visual Studio Tools for Office 2005. Even if you hadn’t already started using Visual Studio with Office, this release gives you a chance to start. The release of VSTO 2005 SE Beta in synchronization with the 2007 Office system Beta 2 Technical Refresh demonstrates our deep commitment to build tools that will enable developers to harness the benefits of the 2007 Office System platform and create Office-based solutions using the professional development environment of Visual Studio 2005.

It’s called “second edition” because the first edition was for Office 2003. Getting customers and partners to use Office as a development platform continues to be a key Microsoft objective and VSTO brings that development into its mainline tooling. More details by following the links and also here.

Filed under Beta and CTP, Executives, Microsoft, Office, Office 2007, S. Soma Somasegar, Tools, VS 2005, VSTO

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March 23, 2006

Microsoft starts own support group for Open XML

Posted by David Hunter at 1:08 PM ET.

You may recall that earlier in the month, a variety of Microsoft competitors formed the OpenDocument Format (ODF) Alliance. Apparently not wishing to be outdone, Microsoft and a group of supporters have now formed the Open XML Formats Developer Group. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols at eWeek:

Microsoft is far from done trying to convince people that its OpenXML is an “open” standard that’s every bit as good as the OpenDocument Format.

In its latest moves against ODF, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, speaking at the Microsoft Office System Developers Conference, announced that the company has joined with 39 other organizations to form the Open XML Formats Developer Group.

According to Gates, this group is for organizations that are committed to supporting the Office OpenXML format. The Microsoft-owned site is run by Doug Mahugh, a Microsoft “technical evangelist.”

Microsoft claims that Apple, Intel and numerous Microsoft partners and resellers, such as InterKnowlogy and The Computer Solution Company, have joined the OpenXML group.

The Open XML Formats Developer Group web site has more details, as does the Microsoft press release which touts a number of Office 2007 features for developers including a community technology preview of “the next generation of Visual Studio Tools for the Microsoft Office system” (VSTO) based on the next generation of Visual Studio, code-named “Orcas.”

Filed under Beta and CTP, Coopetition, IBM, Microsoft, ODF, OOXML, Office, Office 2007, Standards, Sun, Tools, VSTO, Visual Studio 2008

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