Office 2000 rolls out with a bash

Microsoft weaves more of the Web into the latest update of its applications suite -- and celebrates its launch in style.


Scott Rosenberg
June 8, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

"I want to reach higher." "I can do this." "I have goals." "I want to give." "I need to show results." "I've got to get the job done."

Affirmations from some New Age business manual? Think again. These sayings boomed from the high-tech sound system in San Francisco's barely completed Metreon complex Monday as part of an IMAX theater-sized introduction to Microsoft's Office 2000. The rollout also offered a first peek at Microsoft's new "showroom" in San Francisco, and featured mountains of shrimp and sushi.

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Office 2000 updates Microsoft's workhorse applications suite -- home to Word, Excel, Powerpoint and other "tools for knowledge workers" -- by wedding it to the Web in a big way. The company is betting that users will want to publish Web pages straight from their word processors and spreadsheets. So new Office 2000 versions of the familiar old Office programs adds a layer of HTML and XML code to files -- making them readable from Web browsers locally and, with the right servers in place, across the Net.

In other words, Office 2000 continues the process that Windows 98, with its "use the browser to view your hard disk's files" approach, started. The "digital dashboard" -- a new feature of Outlook, Microsoft's e-mail and personal organizer program -- lets users build a one-stop page in Office that pulls together key personal information and updates from their own hard drives, their office networks and the Internet: e-mail, traffic info, stock quotes, office calendars, and anything else you want to plug in. A sort of personal portal built in Office rather than on the Web, it suggests that Microsoft is looking to make sure that its own software -- rather than competing Web companies like Yahoo and America Online -- remains the chief focus of users' time and activities.

Microsoft President Steve Ballmer told the rollout audience, which packed the new high-tech theater next to San Francisco's Moscone Center, that the new Office marked an evolution in Microsoft's overall "vision" -- from its 1975 mantra of "A PC on every desk and in every home" to the newer (and less catchy) "Give people and organizations the ability to do what they want, where and when they want, on any device connected to the Internet."

Microsoft, Ballmer made clear, is betting the future of Office -- which has been a huge profit center for the company -- on its new features for office workers who need to share data more quickly and easily. The product's slogan, emblazoned on the image of a pile of fists, is "Be greater than one." For Microsoft fans, that may bespeak a world of teamwork. For its detractors, it sounds ominously like the Borg.


Scott Rosenberg

Salon co-founder Scott Rosenberg is director of MediaBugs.org. He is the author of "Say Everything" and Dreaming in Code and blogs at Wordyard.com.

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