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Microsoft at Office 2.0

Office 2.0 Conference showcases Microsoft alternatives.

The Office 2.0 Conference in San Francisco in September aimed to inspire next-generation alternatives to Microsoft's behemoth Office productivity suite. But that didn't stop the Redmond-based software giant from having a quiet-but-palpable presence at the event.

Not that Microsoft stole the show. Microsoft Office was eclipsed by, among other things, a Web-based productivity application running on Apple iPhones and productivity apps that work on various social networks. The common theme: Enterprise developers must build more innovative applications that offer new ways to work with and share information.

Innovation Is Key
Etelos Systems Inc., a provider of Web-based productivity applications, made a splash with its on-demand, customizable, iPhone-based Web conference app. The company handed out iPhones to each of the 600 attendees at the conference, enabling them to access conference schedules, hotel maps and program updates, among other features. The iPhone software also allowed attendees to connect and share contact information, photos and messages during the conference.

Etelos CEO Danny Kolke suggests that developers should focus on individuals' work experience and not the applications. He typified the conference-wide wariness of the Redmond software giant.

"A focus on replicating what Microsoft or others are doing, and then putting that into a browser isn't Office 2.0," Kolke says. "That's the wrong vision; the key is innovation and doing it differently, redefining the work experience. The reason I use spreadsheets from Google is not because of advanced features, but because I can easily create and share them."

Redmond Represents
For its part, Microsoft is looking beyond Office. Richard McAniff, a vice president in Microsoft's Office Group, contends that the evolution of social networks will have a big impact on the enterprise. He points to Facebook, the young social network on which his company advertises, and with which Microsoft recently established a relationship to support Microsoft's developer division.

"Something like [Facebook] in combination with productivity tools could change the way people work," McAniff says. "Collaboration is critical for the enterprise and consumers. It's almost a given, but you have to look at how we could have a complete game-changer in what the workforce is doing, just as e-mail changed the way people worked, or search ... that's the way to think about Office 2.0 going forward. We believe it's an extremely fertile ground and clearly [an] area with tremendous opportunity and ability."

Despite the anti-Microsoft slant of the conference, McAniff insists he was comfortable at the event and believes much of what third parties are developing will complement work coming out of Redmond. "It's a tremendous opportunity," he says. "There are a lot of things that we're doing that are complementary to this stuff. It's all about making sure that people can interoperate with each other."

McAniff wasn't the only Microsoft attendee who turned heads at the conference. Brian Kennemer, a senior enterprise project management consultant at Microsoft, also raised some eyebrows. He told </li> that the most common question he'd been asked since arriving at the show was, "What are you doing here?"

"Microsoft didn't send me here to get my finger on the pulse of Web 2.0," Kennemer says. "I'm just a guy who spent the last 10 years doing nothing but deploying project management software."

How will Web 2.0 affect Microsoft's Project product? "I know that there are people inside that team who are looking seriously at Web 2.0," Kennemer says. "If you look at the evolution over the past few years, I think you'll see things in the Web client that reflect Web 2.0. It's a natural tendency now to move more and more features to the Web."

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on ADTmag.com, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at john@watersworks.com.


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