On the heels of its unified communications blowout Monday, Microsoft (http://www.networkworld.com/news/financial/microsoft.html?brl) is offering users a chance to take a free online test drive of Office 2007 applications and servers.
The suite of productivity applications and other server software and services in the Office family is at the heart of Microsoft's unified communications strategy (http://www.networkworld.com/news/2006/062606-microsoft-unified.html?brl), which is intended to bring e-mail, instant messaging, voice and video into a single architecture.
Office 2007's SharePoint Server is the hub of the company's emerging makeover of its collaboration strategy, and Office 2007 is also one of Microsoft's most profitable franchises.
With Office such a linchpin to so many new strategies, Microsoft has launched a Web site (http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/beta/testdrive.mspx) that provides a Web-based online demo into Office desktop applications and the server software. Last month, Microsoft released Beta 2 of Office 2007 and says more than 2.5 million copies have been distributed. With the test-drive version, users do not have to download or install any code on their PCs.
The Office 2007 test-drive Web site is being powered by Runaware, a Swedish company whose technology enables Windows and Linux applications to be run within a browser for demonstration purposes. Interestingly, the Runaware site is run on the Compaq Tru64 Unix operating system with Apache Web servers, while its hosting partner in the U.S., Primus Telecommunications, runs on Linux and Apache, according to statistics compiled by Web analytics company NetCraft.
Microsoft's intent with the online demo is to ignite interest around Office 2007. The suite has become its own worst competition, given that end users have been reluctant to upgrade as they become satisfied with the feature set of older versions.
Microsoft has built a number of initiatives around Office, the latest being the unified communications infrastructure Microsoft laid out Monday during a nearly all-day event in San Francisco.
The Office test drive includes the standard Office applications plus OneNote and InfoPath. Also included are Outlook Web Access, Project Professional, Publisher, Visio, SharePoint Services, SharePoint Designer and SharePoint Server. Microsoft plans to add Project Server at a later date.
The initial release is in English, and Microsoft intends to add French, German, Japanese and Spanish editions later this week.
With the online demo, Microsoft has provided sample data for editing documents, sending e-mail and posting information to a SharePoint site. The server demos also are loaded with sample data.