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Some thoughts after looking at the new Office 12 -- and surprise, Outlook is the odd man out.

By Andrew Pollack on 09/14/2005 at 06:48 PM EDT

Like so many of you, I took a look at Scobble's video of the new user interface on Office 12 -- beta supposedly due out this fall. My first thought, is Scobble -- for the love of God buy a tripod. Moving beyond that, here's my first impression....

Its definitely going to result in better looking documents overall. I doubt it will change content much but that content will absolutely look better. That's because the usability is much, much better for the average Joe. Sure, its just a face-lift, but boy what a welcome one. The endless buried menus and complex dialog boxes to make changes are reorganized into a much more function-forward way of working. I think I'll enjoy it.

The most important thing from Microsoft's perspective is that it really raises the bar in terms of Java UI compatibility and specifically Open Office. It looks to me like very purposeful steps have been taken to integrate a graphics engine that borrows more from Doom 3 than it does from Windows Common Dialog Boxes. That means a lot of the Java ui advances are not going to help the Open Office team keep up without doing a lot of work making those same kinds of back end engines. That's critical for Microsoft. I don't know enough about the underpinnings of the Java UI engines to know how much work is needed -- but some.

Fascinating to me, is that Outlook is IGNORED from all viewpoints. Worse, its a hodgepodge since the editor is Word and thus has no menus but instead all the neat contextual stuff -- while Outlook is the old UI with its drop down menus and hidden checkboxes and such. The mix is going to be UGLY until Microsoft really does release an all-new Outlook. Is that still dependant on a new WinFS or will Sharepoint and InfoPath enable it? What about the new SQL semi-structured data store that went away a year or so ago? That whole strategy mix just got critical because until they catch up, Outlook is going to be a real eye-sore.

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