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Microsoft Plays Politics for Office

Microsoft is heralding a steady stream of product announcements around Office 2007, perhaps in the hopes that folks will forget the most glaring fact of all: Microsoft isn't Vista-ready.

The French call it drowning the fish.

In its latest public display, the company brought together business partners and journalists to announce a product roadmap for Office PerformancePoint Server 2007, a business intelligence (BI) solution that is intended to take up where Business Scorecard Manager and Proclarity Analytics Server leave off.

And much like its introduction of Duet last May, it's all about driving Office 2007.

Microsoft is presenting PerformancePoint as a means of addressing customer demand for a comprehensive business intelligence (BI) solution. The solution spans the entire software stack, from SQL servers and SQL 2005 RDBMS data warehousing on the back end, to SharePoint BI tools, including scorecards, analytics and planning tools on the front end.

"Customers want a complete product line to support and scale across the entire organization," said Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft's business division.

But the principal feature of PerformancePoint is that Office 2007 will act as the interface for all Microsoft BI applications.

Michael Smith, director of Office Business Applications at Microsoft, told internetnews.com that the product is intended to "advance our strategy to make Office more strategic to our customers."

Since most people are familiar with the Office interface, PerformancePoint will help enterprises drive greater adoption of BI applications.

This, said Smith, "makes broader deployment easier and more cost-effective."

Generating sales of Office 2007 by vaunting the features of PerformancePoint might give some customers a compelling reason to upgrade from their current versions of Office.

But the strategy may not play so well with Microsoft's intended target, noted Joe Wilcox, an analyst with JupiterResearch.

That's because the Microsoft approach -- assuming end-to-end Microsoft hegemony -- won't play in larger enterprises that run more heterogeneous environments, including Unix and Linux servers.

"If Unix users can't access their file shares anymore because IT moved everything to SharePoint, that's going to be a problem," Wilcox said. "That's one of the weaknesses of the Microsoft strategy."

In terms of an actual roadmap, Microsoft will continue selling Proclarity Analytics Server and Business Scorecard Manager until sometime in mid-2007, when those two products will converge in the form of PerformancePoint.

Microsoft promised that customers investing in its current offering would not be wasting their money, as they would be upgraded to the same functionality as found in PerformancePoint.

"Proclarity functions are being mapped to Office 2007," said Raikes.

A detailed functional roadmap will be available in September, Raikes said.