Office Developer Conference – Day 1

BillG had the morning keynote. We got to see his Last Day video, which is already online (it’s almost the same video, very close) at http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?mkt=en-us&vid=be9075bb-df0a-41c9-8d86-7ded46627e26

He had FedEx do a demo of their Office Business Applications – showing how their custom add-ons provided a single-application user experience for shipping and tracking. Specifically, they had Outlook add-ins that allow a user to stay in Outlook and do shipping and tracking right from there, e.g. right-click a contact and ship a package to that person. They also have a set of web parts for SharePoint that also provide the track and ship capabilities. These things are new capabilities that FedEx announced today at the conference. More info at http://www.fedex.com/us/developer/ (login required to go deeper than that welcome page). FedEx already provides a set of web services that provide access to tracking and shipping capabilities. FedEx leadership recognized years ago that the information about the package was as valuable as the package itself.

Additionally, FedEx provides an add-in for Word that lets you print directly to Kinko’s (including all the binding options and so forth), and choose delivery options for the resulting documents.

Tied into the demo, a FedEx guy brought out BillG’s autographed Guitar Hero guitar, which is now a raffle prize at the FedEx booth. What would you do with it if you won it?

Other bits from his presentation:

  • Bill also mentioned Xobni (“inbox” spelled backwards!), an outlook add-in that helps organize and analyze email – http://www.xobni.com/ .
  • He also said that people don’t recognize the importance of the Business Data Connector yet.
  • He also said that they are doing work on something along the lines of Access Web Access (i.e. Outlook Web Access or Excel Web Access, but for MS Access) for Office 14 (the next version of Office).
  • Visual Studio Tools for Office are built into the Professional and Team editions of Visual Studio 2008, which we later saw a demo of that showed enhanced support for building SharePoint workflows.
  • From the Q&A: The next version of Office and the development tools will do a better job of closing the gap between ASP.NET development and SharePoint development.
  • There will be better access to SQL tables from within SharePoint in the next version…

After Bill’s keynote was over, he sat down for a Q & A session. I thought that was very neat, as I hadn’t seen that done at other conferences that I’d been to. I was impressed that the audience was polite. One gentleman who got a turn at the microphone was thoughtful enough to thank Bill for his charitable activities, after which he made a plea for the future of VBA and bemoaned the lack of of the Macro Recorder in PowerPoint 2007. I think it was another Microsoft exec that assured the attendee that VBA was not going away.

Another attendee took his turn at the microphone to express concern about the turnaround time for PSS incidents on SharePoint. BillG himself confirmed that Microsoft had been taken by surprise by the velocity of the rapid adoption of SharePoint, and that Microsoft had not been prepared for this. Because of this, the PSS technical support team and the product documentation team (e.g. what we see on MSDN) were understaffed. Kurt DelBene also took responsibility for this and both Kurt and Bill said that it was something they were working to address.

Another gentlemen asked if Microsoft would support code written by MVPs, in particular the Smart Part, attributed to (I think correctly), Patrick Tisseghem . I think the answer was no, but they are making web part development easier.

By the way, although Bill is retiring from Microsoft this summer, he will still be involved in the Office product line part time.

Overall, Microsoft was promoting the concept of Office Business Applications (OBAs).  I see this as a Business Process Improvement / Optimization thing.  The idea is that you look at the end user experience for an existing business process, and then improve it by integrating the interactions with backend systems into a single application that the user is already familiar with.    Terry Lutes, the CIO of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity told the attendees of how his team started with a system where a user had 83 icons on the desktop, and replaced it with a set of security trimmed add-ons for Microsoft Outlook so now the users just stay in outlook most of the day, except when they use an a custom Outlook menu to launch certain web applications (based on SharePoint of course).  This same approach can be implemented in any of the Office client applications, depending on the business needs. 

Also, SharePoint isn’t just for providing the web applications, but also can expose services that can be used in Office client applications (and elsewhere).  Again, the message is that SharePoint can be a powerful tool for application integration.

Some reference links of interest regarding OBAs:

  • More information on OBAs at www.obacentral.com, and at https://msdn.microsoft.com/oba  From the later site is the following definition of an OBA:
    • “OBAs connect Line of Business (LOB) systems with the people that use them through the familiar user interface of Microsoft Office. OBAs enable businesses to extend the Microsoft Office clients and servers into business processes running in LOB applications such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Supply Chain Management (SCM). This enables enterprises to create new value from existing IT investments by combining them in innovative ways.”
  • There are a large number of verticals being targeted with OBA solutions. See OBACentral, above.

I had lunch with a coworker and Michael Lehman (http://channel9.msdn.com/Niners/Michael%20Lehman) and Ben Riga (http://blogs.msdn.com/benriga/). They both had just been onstage as part of the last keynote before lunch.

I attended three sessions this afternoon:

  1. Joanna Bichsel showed us a sample OBA for recruiting where a user was working in Word and had access via a custom task pane to the list of candidates as well as salary ranges for that role where the salary data came from an Excel sheet on the MOSS server. http://blogs.msdn.com/joanna_bichsel/default.aspx She will have a book out soon about programming OBAs. She also recommended the MSDN Office Developer How To center. http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-au/office/bb266408.aspx
  2. Nick Swan on using the BDC. BDC MetaMan is your friend: http://www.lightningtools.com/bdc-meta-man/default.aspx The Microsoft alternative is the Microsoft BDC Definition Editor, included in a SharePoint SDK I believe.
    1. It’s not just BDC web parts and lists and Search that can use the BDC connections. It’s the User Profile system too.
    2. There’s a neat function built into Word: =Rand(). Go to a blank line and type that in, then hit enter. It’s more convenient that www.lipsum.com!
    3. The internal (API) name for the BDC is the Application Registry.
    4. You can read and write data with the BDC, not just read.
  3. Ty Anderson. He was demoing some custom web parts that he wrote that provide additional configurability for navigation on publishing sites. His blog is at http://www.officedeveloper.net/default.aspx

I got Ted Pattison to autograph my copy of his book,Inside Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0.

That’s all I can remember. Time to get some sleep so I can digest a whole new day of stuff tomorrow.

–Michael

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*