Microsoft is working on a component version of its Office suite that will allow IT managers to pick and choose which features are deployed to users. The move is calculated to deflect criticism that Office is too big, or "bloatware". Using the new component model will allow managers to trim the amount of system resources used by Office as well as giving them greater control over what is used on the desktop. According to sources, Office 9 (the internal codename for the product) can be added to, or reduced, by selecting the desired components from a copy sitting on a server. This is achieved by the use of an updated version of Intellisense (see PC Week 19 December), previously codenamed Darwin, which senses which components are used most often, stores that information in a database and then, with permission from the IT manager, automatically downloads them to the user. "This is a very clever idea because it deals with one of the biggest problems facing IT managers - space and cost," said Chris Latoch, an analyst with Dataquest in the US. IT managers will also be able to use NT 5.0's Active Directory to automate Office upgrades for users. Intellimirror technology, part of Microsoft's Zero Administration for Windows (ZAW), and also due in NT 5.0, will also be included. Intelli-mirror automatically updates and mirrors a user's PC in case of a crash. "It's about time Microsoft got its act together on a crash-proof system for Office," commented Roger Higton, a technology consultant with the Nepar software consultancy in London. "NT 5.0 has some excellent features and I'm encouraged that Microsoft is thinking about integrating them with the next Office." Another new feature allows users to create virtual workgroups and discussions on Web sites. All of the applications in Office 9 will be upgraded to enable users to publish documents directly to a Web server. Jeremy Gittins, product manager for Office at Microsoft UK, confirmed that the company is working on a componentised version of the Office suite, but refused to speculate on a possible release date or a name for the product. Sources claimed the beta version of Office 9 will arrive next quarter.
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