Microsoft has announced that it will include data-culling technology in the upcoming version of Microsoft Office, codenamed Office 12.
The company said the business-intelligence technology will provide easy access to critical company data through tighter integration with Microsoft's SQL Server and SharePoint Products and Technologies.
Office 12, scheduled for release in 2006, will aim to make better use of the Excel spreadsheet program to analyze company data by enhancing server-side analysis and dashboard options in its SharePoint portal and collaboration environment.
SQL Server Integration
The company also is touting better Office integration with SQL Server 2005, the newest version of Microsoft's enterprise-class database software. New functions include greater spreadsheet capacity, improved sorting and filtering, and data-visualization capabilities.
Before Office 12 hits the streets, however, some of the technology will be available in November with the release of Business Scorecard Manager 2005, which uses Microsoft's SQL server on the back end and the Office suite on the front end.
The debut will mark Microsoft's entry into a billion-dollar market that heretofore had been the domain of enterprise-scale organizations such as Business Objects SA. Microsoft said the software is a response to "extensive customer research" that found customers wanted a scorecard application for business-process management.
Everyone Together Now
The new emphasis on business-intelligence technology comes as Microsoft attempts to expand the market for Office by changing the perception that the application is primarily a personal productivity tool.
Keith Giles, principal analyst at Forrester Research, said that with just 25 percent of corporations running the latest version of Office, Microsoft is sending a message that it has the "strongest productivity product in Office." Giles also said that Office should offer the best level of integration with SQL Server.
Previous versions of Excel lacked the ability to integrate metadata or build robust applications in the same fashion a business-intelligence tool could, Giles said. Office 12 "brings together two strong components, the SQL Server component and the Office component, in way they have not been brought together in large organizations," he said.
"Excel is used tremendously by both small and midsize businesses and larger corporate entities," Giles said. "The enhancements not only will make it more attractive within the small and midsize business market, but also make it more attractive at the enterprise level."