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Microsoft building smaller Office

The software giant has decided to drop two features from its next-generation Office suite for Windows, due to ship next year.

Microsoft has decided to drop two features from its next-generation Office suite for Windows, due to ship next year.

Microsoft said that after evaluating feedback from testers of Office 10, it will not include the Office Designer tool and Local Web Storage System in the final product. Microsoft said these two features were not reliable and of high enough quality to make it into the shipping product.

Microsoft first demonstrated Office Designer in October at an industry convention. The company had touted the tool as enabling developers to "create and customize interactive, Web-based collaborative applications that teams can use to communicate and work together more effectively." Applications developed using Office Designer were supposed to be able to run online or offline, using the Local Web Storage System.

The Local Web Storage System is based on the unified repository Microsoft calls the Web Storage System, which is shipping as part of Microsoft Exchange 2000 and is slated to be part of a future Microsoft server application, code-named Tahoe. Tahoe, which is in beta testing now, is meant to be an intranet portal and document management product. It stores information in Outlook 10 and synchronizes it with the Web Storage System. The Local Web Storage System also was intended to allow Outlook users to work offline.

Both features are key to Microsoft's strategy to make its existing products more Internet-ready as part of its .Net initiative. While Microsoft has not touted Office 10 as its first .Net Office release, officials have said repeatedly that Office 10 is a stepping stone on the way to a fully Internet-based Office release.

.Net is Microsoft's software-as-a-service strategy. In short, Microsoft is trying to get developers and customers to write to a new framework, rather than to Windows, to create Web applications. Competitors, including Oracle, plan similar technology.

Despite .Net's emphasis on building Web-based, collaborative applications, Microsoft product manager LisaGurry denied that either of the omitted features were part of .Net.

"Office Designer and the Local Web Storage System aren't related to our .Net strategy," she said. "They were primarily features targeted for developers and large corporations running Exchange 2000."

Instead, Gurry pointed to slated Office 10 features, such as Smart Tags, Instant Messenger integration, Web-based searching capabilities, and integration with SharePoint (Microsoft's newly minted Web-based collaborative technology) as examples of .Net functionality scheduled to make it into the shipping version of the product.

Office 10 is slated to ship commercially before mid-2001. Microsoft also is simultaneously working on web-enabled word processing and calendar technologies, code-named NetDocs, which may or may not be part of the company's .Net plan.

Office 10 is slated to work on Windows 98/98 SE, Windows Me, NT 4.0, and Windows 2000.