It's been months since Microsoft released Office 2007 and Vista, and by recent news accounts, the two products are catching on this quarter.
That may explain why there's suddenly a rash of announcements from third-party providers touting how their product integrates with Office 2007.
While some are focused on Office 2007's new, splashy interface, the big selling point -- and pay off for businesses -- may be the new suite's ability to act as a front end for many back-end applications.
Steve Ballmer calls these third-party tie ins Office Business Applications (OBAs). Channel News Network reports that he's been pushing this functionality at the Software 2007 conference in Santa Clara, Calif. His argument is this gives business users a familiar way -- i.e. Office -- to interface with very technical and complex solutions.
If you're really curious about how one of these OBAs might work, Ballmer and John Squire, the Vice President of Global Marketing for Dassault Systems, presented a prototype at Software 2007. You can watch the 11-minute presentation -- complete with Powerpoint! -- on CNET, but really, it's completely skippable, largely because the bulk of the presentation relies on a barely-visible Powerpoint display. No doubt it was much better live.
Microsoft isn't just waiting for vendors to come to them, of course. They're actively supporting and pushing the OBA functionality, according to Application Development Trends.
But the real integration payoff comes when you add the SharePoint Server, according to an analysis in Channel Web Network. SharePoint Server 2007, released last fall, offers back-end integration technology for a variety of tasks, including portals, content management and document management.
"SharePoint, in my opinion, is the reason to buy Office 2007," PCMS IT Advisor Group Consulting Services Vice President Matt Scherocman quips in the piece.
What strikes me as really smart about this move is how Ballmer and Microsoft stress that business users are comfortable with the Office interface -- nevermind that Office 2007 changes that interface. To me, the implication is this is a way to let business users use more challenging, but business-enabling, software without creating a staff panic or paying to retraining everyone.