BI a boost for next version of Office: Microsoft

Redomond using BI capability to pitch Office as more than just a productivity suite

Microsoft has unveiled a host of new business intelligence (BI) features that will be available in the next version of Microsoft Office, code-named Office 12, which is expected to ship early next year. The move is seen as an effort to show that Office as more than just a productivity suite.

New features in Office 12's version of Excel include greater spreadsheet capacity, improved sorting and filtering capabilities and improved data visualisation schemes, Microsoft says. All of these are aimed at making it easier for business users of Excel to more securely access, analyse and share information between databases and enterprise applications, the company says.

A key plank of Office 12 is its integration with SQL Server 2005, which is to be released on November 7.Support for SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services is another new feature of Office 12.

Office 12 will also add Excel Services to SharePoint Products and Technologies. These server-side Excel capabilities will enable customers to better secure, share and manage spreadsheets over a server and allow those spreadsheets to be viewed through a web browser or downloaded to a user desktop, Microsoft says.

SharePoint also will be updated so users can more easily build personalised dashboards that combine data and charts from various sources and find reports and spreadsheets by using improved search capabilities, the company says.

Microsoft executives have been touting the next version of Office as a BI tool for some time, hoping to convince the industry it is a platform for business collaboration, not just a desktop suite.

However, it hasn't always been easy for Redmond to convince Office users to upgrade to new versions of the software when they are made available. Chris Capossela, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Information Worker Product Management Group, acknowledged in July that many customers are not upgrading their Office suite because they believe the older versions are sufficient.

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