CEO Steve Ballmer on Tuesday gave attendees at Microsoft’s Office Project Conference 2007 in Seattle a sneak peek at a handful of new features coming in the next major release of the company’s project management software during his keynote address.
Additionally, the company disclosed it is readying the first service packs for the last release of Microsoft Project.
The new features demoed onstage are coming in a version that Ballmer would only refer to as “Project Next.” He added that the logical numbering from the current version 12 would be 13, which he described as an “unlucky number.” The current version, 12, is officially known as Project 2007. It was released to manufacturing last November.
Ballmer did not give any timeline for delivery of the upcoming release.
Citing the need for more workers to have access to project management technology than just professional project managers, he said Project needs to become simpler to use.
“We think it’s important for all of us that we permit a much broader set of people to participate in the enterprise workflow,” Ballmer said.
To that end, Alice Steinglass, senior program manager in the Project group, demonstrated an upcoming “ribbon” user interface similar to the ribbon in Office 2007. “What the ribbon UI allows us to do is to take these tasks that you do frequently and make them simpler, and also make it easier for a beginning project manager to come in and figure out how to do something, like build a report,” Steinglass said.
She also showed off a new “timeline view” that could be copied from within Project and pasted into PowerPoint or other Office applications. The timeline view will also automatically update as the underlying data changes.
Meanwhile, Microsoft officials also said the company is in the final phases of readying the first service packs for the entire Project line of products, including Office Project Standard & Professional 2007, Office Project Server 2007 and Office Project Portfolio Server 2007.
“The service packs include the latest hot-fixes, functional improvements and security updates,” a Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.com in an e-mail. The spokesperson would not confirm a planned ship date for the service packs except to say that an announcement would be made in the “next few weeks.”