REDMOND, Wash., March 5, 2001 — Today, Microsoft announced Office XPs release to manufacturing. As the Office XP team finishes up the latest version of Office, senior vice president and Office visionary Steven Sinofsky reflects on the development effort that he says created "the most significant version of Office ever released."
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer celebrates at the launch party for Office XP, which was released to manufacturing today.
PressPass spoke with Sinofsky about the Office XP development process and why he thinks customers are going to love Office XP.
PressPass: Were there a lot of people involved in making Office XP a world-class product?
There were many contributors to Office XP, externally from other companies and internally at Microsoft. We worked hand-in-hand with over 10,000 beta customers for many months. Over 3,000 beta customers have been giving us feedback since August. Weve also worked with many customers over the past few years to get feedback on what types of features they would like to see in Office. Weve built on input from our advisory councils, newsgroups, usability studies, on-site customer visits, executive level feedback from corporate partners, input from product support, instrumented studies and a multitude of customer research to ensure were incorporating customer feedback every step of the way.
Our internal effort has also been massive. Over 20,000 employees at Microsoft are currently running Office XP and relying on it every day. We have tested Office XP for compatibility with the several hundred line-of-business applications used within Microsoft. Our internal technology group and employees throughout the company have provided extremely valuable feedback during this development process.
PressPass: What were the major milestones for developing Office XP?
We began developing Office XP, then code-named Office 10, about two years ago. In August 2000, we sent out the first beta to about 3,000 customers. In October 2000, we expanded the beta program to over 10,000 customers. Now, with the release to manufacturing, our development effort is complete for Office XP.
PressPass: What does your development process look like?
Creating a product like Office is a sophisticated process. We begin by analyzing the marketplace and talking to customers to determine what customers need to be more productive and successful and which challenges need to be solved. Then we brainstorm about creative and useful ways to solve these customer needs. Next, we define our overall vision for the product and outline our development priorities. This involves outlining the list of features that will be included in the product. Then we set up a development schedule to keep our team on track and begin engineering the product.
Once we have early product builds available, we begin working with early adopters -- or customers that are interested in the latest technology, and beta testers to receive feedback on the product. We typically have several beta releases and incorporate lots of feedback as we progress toward our final build of the product. After testing, and once we are extremely confidant in the quality of the product, we release it to manufacturing. This is the last step in the process and means that the development and testing of the product is completed.
PressPass: What are the biggest challenges you face when developing a new version of Office?
Office is an extremely popular product. Over 200 million people use Office as their primary productivity tool. As you can imagine, there are many different types of workers with different types of needs. Determining which feature sets to deliver in a particular Office product that will offer important improvements for all of these different types of workers is the greatest challenge. With Office XP, we are delivering a product that offers significant improvements for everyone -- from the individual working alone or with a team to the IT administrator. This is the primary reason we are so proud of Office XP -- it definitely offers exciting new capabilities for everyone.
PressPass: What do you think are the most important innovations in Office XP?
Office XPs feature sets were designed around three core principles: making personal productivity simpler, enabling collaboration for everyone, and providing flexible solutions to solve business needs.
Individuals using Office XP will be able to easily use and control a broader set of Office features and access information from multiple sources, including the Web and other applications. Features like Smart Tags and Task Panes will enable people to quickly synthesize, create and deliver professional-looking information and improve their overall productivity. For people working in teams, Office XP will make it easy for them to work and communicate with other people through new email-based document collaboration and annotation technologies, a new pre-built team Web site solution called SharePoint Team Services and rich integration between Outlook, MSN Messenger and other Internet-based email properties like Hotmail.
Office XP offers organizations a great platform for creating flexible and reliable business solutions for organizations through XML support, extensible Smart Tags and Office Web Components, while delivering the tools organizations need to successfully deploy and manage the product in the most cost-effective manner ever. This is just a small sampling of the innovations in Office XP. For more detailed information, please see http://www.microsoft.com/office/xp/xpguide.htm .
PressPass: Why do you think Office XP is the most significant version of Office ever released?
This is the most significant Office product released because the breadth of customer solutions we are delivering in this product exceeds any previous version of Office, and the innovations we are making will truly enhance the way people work and communicate. While Office has traditionally focused on providing individual productivity improvements, Office XP takes productivity to the next level by enabling new experiences that allow people to richly communicate, collaborate, and harness and re-use information in an integrated manner.
With Office XP, we have also expanded our vision of what productivity looks like to enable people to dynamically interact with information and expand their access to the information and resources they need. Office XP begins to incorporate Web services like Smart Tags and SharePoint Team Services, which is an important step toward delivering on our .NET vision. Office XP can be a knowledge hub for people, where they can easily access information from a variety of sources, use additional services and communicate with other people.
PressPass: Arent many of your customers pleased with their current version of Office? Which features in Office XP will encourage people to upgrade?
Previous versions of Office have been successful, and customers have been happy with these versions because they addressed needs that customers had at the time. However, customers' needs continue to evolve and people still face tasks every day that arent simple enough; such as copying and pasting information into multiple documents or trying to collaborate on documents with other people.
Our customer research confirmed that people werent using many of the features in their current Office product, because they couldnt find the feature or didnt know it existed. Office XP makes it extremely easy for individuals to experience major productivity improvements through features that solve these needs.
And, people were still losing their documents if a computer error occurred. Weve added features to virtually assure people that they wont lose their documents to any type of computer " crash." Weve also continued to add compelling new advanced features for developers and IT administrators to make Office XP a true development platform that is easy to deploy, as well as other significant IT benefits.
PressPass: How stable is Office XP?
Office XP is the most stable Office product Microsoft has ever shipped. It has been extensively tested by our internal testing team and external beta testers. Were very pleased with the level of stability and reliability that we are shipping with Office XP. Feedback from our customers has been very positive in this area. The diagnostics or "telemetry" built into Office XP have fundamentally improved our ability to diagnose and correct fatal errors throughout the development and beta testing of the product.
PressPass: When will customers be able to go to a retail store and buy Office XP?
Office XP will be available in retail later this spring, and were extremely excited for all customers to have the opportunity to check out this great new product.