What's Next? Office .Net

While Office 10 includes several new features that are related to Microsoft Corp.'s .Net strategy, such as support for speech recognition and XML, the company has already started to discuss a successor to the product, called Office .Net, slated for 2002 or later.

In line with Microsoft's .Net design, Office .Net will consist of smart clients that consume Internet-based "services." A key feature will be the Universal Canvas - a workspace that combines communication, browsing and document authoring.

Sun Microsystems is working on a similar, server-based version of its StarOffice suite, called StarPortal.

Users have expressed skepticism. Michael Brown, director of technology at Yellow Transportation LLC in Denver, said he sees little benefit. "Unless bandwidth is suddenly no longer an issue, I'd be very concerned about running a server-based suite," he said.

Tim Talbot, vice president of information technology services at PHH Vehicle Management Services LLC in Hunt Valley, Md., said tools like Novell Inc.'s NDS and ZENworks already allow him to roll out a new Office version to desktops in less than a day, so a server-based solution would offer little additional benefit.

One user said he believes the approach has merit. "It would be very useful not to have to deploy [office productivity] software on every desktop," said Jim Prevo, vice president and CIO at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.

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