Interview: Microsoft's desktop apps boss talks components

On the occasion of Microsoft's shipping Office 97, @IDG affiliate 'InfoWorld' talks to Richard Fade, vice-president of the Microsoft's desktop applications division.

On the occasion of Microsoft's shipping Office 97, @IDG affiliate InfoWorld talks to Richard Fade, vice-president of the Microsoft's desktop applications division.

IW: With all the talk of deploying components, thin clients and downloading applications via the World Wide Web, aren't the kind of large minimum system requirements of Office 97 an anachronism?

RICHARD FADE: I don't find anybody that really buys into the Larry Ellison (chairman and CEO of Oracle) paradigm, which says, "I only need four features in my word processor." They don't want a lot les. Maybe that works for Larry, who has an army of people and a large company underneath him to do the work. But for people who are engaged in day-to-day document creation and collaboration, they need a powerful, integrated set of tools. I don't think anyone is going to regret purchasing 16Mb machines that have very capable microprocessors. And certainly the trend in memory, hard disk and processor has been in reducing costs.

IW: Could you talk about Microsoft's new component division?

FADE: It's a development team within the desktop applications division. It's the Office Web product unit and they're responsible for doing a number of things. They're doing some work in the control area and they are working with Java and ActiveX technology and exploring how can we use this technology to deliver really fundamentally new and valuable capabilities to the end-user. That's what we're focused on today. It's just not that interesting to take a current application and just do a port to Java. We have no illusions that Java as a technology has a tremendous amount of energy and investment behind it. It's going to mature and we will exploit the technology.

IW: Will we see Office 97 componentised?

FADE: The Office 97 suite is highly componentised today. Today with Office 97 we have componentised the applications and we've given our customers programmatic access via Visual Basic for Applications. These components, these subsets of functionality within the application, exist as modules, as discrete sets of functionality with interfaces. Visual Basic for Applications that ships across the suite in Office 97 gives you a complete editor and an OLE object browser, all in one very integrated development environment.

So going forward we will give our Office customers more and more access and flexibility with regard to these components but will likely continue to sell the collection of components as a suite of software.

IW: What is the struggle between Microsoft on the one side and Oracle on the other really about?

FADE: In its purest form you see Microsoft having built a business on creating market standards and creating a framework for innovation, not just for Microsoft, but for multiple players in the industry -- hardware and software alike. And by that I'm referring to the first MS-DOS and the Windows platforms and tools. And that being the status quo and the high-volume environment that has this positive feedback loop that Bill Gates refers to as a platform for innovation to our industry. And you basically see a competitor in the form of Oracle trying to understand how it can change the rules of the game to favour its business. At the highest level that's what it's about.

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