Yesterday Paul Thurrett posted a great blog Office 15: The Mile-High View discussing some of the new features and architecture of Office 15. Of particular interest to me was the following information regarding Outlook 15 and Office extensibility through Agave.
Hundreds of millions of users live in Outlook each day, making it the center of their professional and personal lives. And with Outlook 15, we’re getting a refined user experience with better navigation between the email, calendar, people, and tasks modules, and a new Peeks feature for quickly viewing information about your schedule, a person, a task, and other objects without leaving the current view and navigating to the relevant module. It features in-line replies, a new weather bar (in Calendar only, curiously), and finally integrates correctly with multiple email sources, including Hotmail (without requiring an add-on.) Speaking of add-ons, remember the Social Connector from Outlook 2010? That’s integrated as well.
Office 15 Metro UI in Outlook 15
Office 15 is also providing an interesting new extensibility platform, code-named Agave, which will work with both traditional, PC-based versions of Office as well as the Office Web Apps and Office servers. Agave provides what Microsoft called “web-powered experiences,” using a web extension model that utilizes web standards behind the scenes. Developers will be able to publicize their new add-ons using an Office Marketplace that will be accessible from within the applications and can be used by corporations to deliver secure, private solutions to their managed users.
Timing and Expectations
Internally, Microsoft is currently planning to complete development of all of the Office 15 products and services in November 2012, though a leaked road map suggests that they won’t actually ship to customers until very early 2013. Regardless of the actual ship date, I think it’s highly probable that one or more of the solutions will slip, and that as a result Microsoft will ship these products over a tight period of time, nearly simultaneously rather than simultaneously.
The following information appeared in an article written by Tom Warren on The Verge:
Microsoft is planning to allow developers to create “Agaves” web extensions to bring third-party functionality to Office clients. Web developers will be able to create an area within an Office application that lets webpages interact with documents and augment content with extra features. The Agaves will be provided through Microsoft’s Office Marketplace, or from private stand-alone Agaves at organizations.
Microsoft’s next-generation of its Office productivity suite, will support the new web extensions throughout a number of its core client apps. Excel 15, Word 15, Outlook 15, and Project Professional 15 will all support Agaves, and Microsoft will also allow Agaves to run on the Excel, Outlook, and Mobile Outlook Web Apps. The software giant is creating three different ways that Agaves can be integrated into Office applications: Task Pane, Content, and Contextual.
A Task Pane Agave will enable Office users to see an extension side-by-side with an Office document, allowing users to look up information from a web service based on a product name highlighted in a document. Content Agaves will allow webpages to become part of a document as embedded content that can be shown in line with documents. Developers could use this functionality to integrate a YouTube video clip or a picture gallery. Contextual Agaves will work on the Outlook side of Office and allow developers to display content with a particular mail or calendar item.
I’m a little pressed for time to write my own blog pulling together the snippets of info that have been circulating related to Agaves and the new development opportunities that Office 15 will bring with it. Until I get time to blog here’s a great primer (all credit to Learning SharePoint for this information)
Lets look at basic features of Agaves -
* Agaves will be available for download from the coming Office 15 in-app marketplace.
* There will exist different kinds of Agaves, including Content Agaves and Task Pane Agaves.
Now lets see how does it matter to our beloved SharePoint.
According to this post from Mary Jo Foley, there will exist a SharePoint connection on the Agave front and SharePoint apps will be able to be integrated with Agaves. So here is a golden chance to create applications targeted to Office suite which integrates well with SharePoint.
The following slides were leaked yesterday by Maarten Visser (chief executive of Meetroo, an IT solution provider). Although no word on the slides authenticity has come out of Microsoft, respected IT journalist Mary-Jo Foley has backed the slides stating they were confidentially distributed by Microsoft to selected partners.
What does this means for SharePoint and Office?
The slides confirm some of the rumoured dates that had already been circulating rather than providing and great twists in the guessing games of when the new releases will be out.
As already rumoured, the next wave of products will be a synchronised effort across server and desktop technologies meaning we will see a refresh of SharePoint Server, Office 365, Office Desktop Suite, Project, Visio and Internet Explorer.
The expectation for us to be seeing Beta software continues to be mid 2012 with general availability early 2013.
Microsoft have also released the SharePoint 15 Technical Preview Interoperability API Documentation which provides a lot of information regarding change to the SharePoint 15 client object model.
The expected enhancements we can look forward to in the next release of SharePoint (if any of the loud rumours are correct):
Here’s a summary of the suggested, forthcoming improvements to SharePoint:
- SharePoint app marketplace
- Overhauled Client Object Model (COM)
- Better suited for cloud environment
- Improved UI, especially around social networking
- Improved mobile support
- Simplified development and integration
- Enable workflow looping in SharePoint Designer, eliminating the need for the Visual Studio
- Cross-platform authentication
Microsoft’s next version of Office has reached its technical preview stage. The platform is being distributed to a select group of testers which for the first time includes customers; a public beta is due mid 2012.
With Office 15 Microsoft is updating the whole suite at once. “For the first time ever, we will simultaneously update our cloud services, servers, and mobile and PC clients for Office, Office 365, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project, and Visio,”
Official Press Release from Microsoft Office Division (PJ Hough CVP)
SharePoint 15 Technical Preview Managed Object Model Software Development Kit (MS Download)
Office 2010 was a huge hit and sold more than 100 million licenses. It showed an 8% increase in revenue last quarter, compensating for the lull in Windows sales. However, sales are expected to slow down considerably in 2012, as it becomes more than 2 years old. It recently launched Office 365, an on-demand, cloud based version of the Office Suite, in order to capture the growing cloud based productivity software market, in which Google Docs is emerging as a serious competitor. Office 365 sales have been picking up, but they are still too low compared to sales of Office 2010.
We expect Windows 8 sales to lift Microsoft’s revenues in 2012, followed by a further boost in 2013, with the launch of Office 15. Microsoft currently has a 94% share in the office productivity software market, which is expected to decline marginally over the forecast period, due to increasing competition from alternatives like Google Docs and Zoho Office.