At last week's Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, I learned a bunch of things, to wit:
Microsoft has a HUGE wave of technologies poised to hit the market over the next 12 months (Windows 7, Office 2010, and many others)
Microsoft LOVES to compete with the likes of Google, VMWare, Cisco, Apple, etc.
Notwithstanding these big, obvious themes, I was pleased to get my first look at Microsoft Office 2010. Here are a couple of first impressions, formed via Chris Caposella's value keynote, some executive roundtable meetings, and a hands-on lab session with Office 2010 at WPC:
The ribbon finally shows up in Outlook 2010, eating up some valuable screen real estate but also providing access to some interesting new features. One is a "conversation view" that allows the user to group messages by conversation, and expand or compress conversations, very easily.
My favorite new Outlook feature is a "Clean Up/Ignore" function that allows the user to quickly and systematically re-direct or delete messages in a thread -- it's also known as the message "mute button." For example, once a thread gets unwieldy (5 reply-all's, 5 "please remove me from this thread" messages, 3 "me too" messages, etc.), a user can systematically trim out the chaff, keeping only the messages where a decision was made or action required. I remain curious, however, how this feature will handle branching of messages outward from a thread, and look forward to testing this feature in more depth.
Another useful feature is the addition of a small, relevant snippet of a calendar view added to meeting requests so that the user can see his/her calendar from within the meeting request.
I'll likely write more about this in the future, but the addition of sparklines and a feature called "slicers" add more BI and data visualization capability to Excel, and the keynote demonstrations included a user easily working with a data set containing 1.5 million rows of data in a workbook via the SQL Server 2010/Excel 2010 integration previously code-named "Project Gemini."
One exceptional thing I saw demonstrated in Word actually applies to several of the Office products: the ability for multiple authors to concurrently author the same document. This is a frequently requested capability, and I look forward to demonstrating this when the SharePoint beta is set up in our lab environment. For now, you can see this process via the demo in this video (note: fast-forward to the 54-minute mark).
Other than the co-editing capabilities which I saw only in the context of Word but which I expect to be most valuable in PowerPoint, the most interesting new features I saw related to new tools for editing of pictures and videos from within PowerPoint.
In all of the Office products, the "Backstage" view replaces the combination of the Office button and the Document Information Panel as the place to see and manage metadata and other document properties.
There were several new features in Office applications like Access, One Note, etc., that I saw in demos but have yet to take for a test-drive. KMA has the bits installed in our lab, so watch this space for more updates as we continue our testing and learning. Meanwhile, check out this excellent image gallery that shows off the new user interface and other key features in Office 2010, and this overview [Download OfficeOverviewFS].