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Microsoft Disconnects Office 10’s Laptop User Development Tools

Concerns over quality spurred Microsoft to remove a pair of tools from Office 10 that would have helped developers create applications for occasionally connected users.

Microsoft first floated the developer tools, Local Web Storage System and Office Designer, at the Exchange & Collaboration Solutions conference in October. The tools would have made it easier for developers to write applications that laptop users could seamlessly work in whether connected to a LAN or not.

“After listening to feedback from our beta testers and partners and evaluating the improvements that would be necessary to meet the quality and reliability our customers expect from Office, we’ve determined that Office Designer and the Local Web Storage System will not be available with Office 10,” Microsoft said in a statement.

Local Web Storage System would have synchronized with the Web Storage System shipping in Exchange 2000. Web Storage System is also supposed to be available in Tahoe, the document management and portal server Microsoft is working on.

Web Storage System can store many file types and supports HTTP and XML Internet protocols, the WebDAV document interface, and the OLE DB and ActiveX database interfaces.

Office Designer would have provided a visual design environment with sample templates.

Despite the retreat, Microsoft has not killed the features. “We are currently evaluating the future direction for the functionality provided in these features,” the company’s statement said.

To counter the negative aspects of the news, Microsoft highlighted the new features in Outlook 10 and Exchange 2000 that will relate to network performance improvements.

A new Cancel feature will allow users to stop requests to the Exchange server if a network connection is down, making Outlook 10 more resilient during network or server disruptions. Less network traffic between Outlook 10 and the server will be necessary compared with what is needed for Outlook 2000. Synchronization improvements include a new Progress Reporting feature that lets the user know how long synchronization will take.

Office 10 is expected to ship in the first half of this year. Microsoft is introducing a subscription pricing model with this version of the productivity suite, although it will be targeted primarily at home and small business users. – Scott Bekker

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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