Gates Talks up Custom Office Apps

In one of his final speeches as a full-time Microsoft employee, Gates pitches SharePoint and Office Live services at this year's Office developers confab.

Microsoft is expected to release an update to its Office Live Small Business services this week, as well as other new and updated components aimed at more tightly tying online services with the company's flagship Office productivity suite.

The announcements are slated to come during a keynote speech by chairman Bill Gates during the 2008 Microsoft Office System Developer Conference in San Jose, Calif. It will be one of Gates' last as a full-time Microsoft employee -- he is leaving his current role at the company in July to concentrate on philanthropy.

During the keynote, shipping giant FedEx is expected to demonstrate an Office plug-in called QuickShip, which it designed to provide customers with shipping services integrated into the Outlook communications client. "This gives us another point of access for our customers," Don Gibson, vice president of IT at FedEx Services, told "Getting that information inside their applications is very important."

Office applications increasingly have become a fulcrum for the company's software-plus-services vision -- including the increasing use of Office SharePoint Server to provide collaboration services "in the cloud" for Office applications.

In fact, connectivity with SharePoint Server 2007 is one of the updates added in version 2 of Office Live Small Business, Chris Bryant, senior product manager for Office Business Applications, told

Microsoft also plans today to introduce what it calls the OBA Composition Toolkit, a reference application that enables creation of enterprise mash-ups using pre-built components, Office and SharePoint Server 2007.

Version 2.0 of Office Live for Small Business -- formerly named Office Live -- will feature "new e-commerce and e-mail marketing features and advanced Web design and platform capabilities that developers can use in building solutions," according to a company statement.

The service currently has nearly 600,000 users, Microsoft said.

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