For awhile there, Microsoft’s highly covert operations

surrounding Office “12” seemed to suggest something a little revolutionary

was afoot. You couldn’t turn around without smacking into an NDA, and a leaked

(albeit flakey) early beta added a hint of espionage.

But now, we’re being fed details, the rumble of hype is

growing louder, and the mystique is fading. Microsoft has divulged the

bundling/pricing structure, the official name, and details of the 2,709

individual applications that will make up the 482 packages of the new Office

system. This blog

post by Jason Hiner offers a great breakdown of the Office 2007 components

(okay, not quite 2,709 of them), packaging, and pricing. And I don’t mention

this because Jason’s my boss. No really.

So just now, I went ahead and registered for beta 2, after

having been denied entrance to the ultra secret society of beta 1 testers. I

feel a little silly doing it, as though I’m flipping a light switch that’s not

wired to anything. But what the hell. I’ve got that Microsoft Passport, might

as well use it.

I also feel a tiny bubble of dread surfacing somewhere.

Maybe because I’m an Office luddite, resisting and despising many of the

features that arrived with the XP and 2003. (For example, the implementation of

Word’s document reviewing features–something many writers and editors live and

die by–took such a thrashing in XP, you have to wonder whether the design

changes were driven by some kind of high stakes Rube Goldberg side bet.)

And I’m not reassured by the carefully dispensed,

meticulously spun scraps of information about Office 2007’s new features, enhancements,

and radically rejiggered UI. If the goal is to surface all that functionality

that most users don’t know about, I’m really not going to like it. Because I DO

know about the functionality, and I’ve built and customized and tinkered my way

around Office so it’s like a comfortable, nicely broken-in chair. The last

thing I want is for Microsoft to give me an entirely NEW chair–one that, by

early accounts–will be nearly impossible to break in.

But I’m going to reserve judgment, or try to. Maybe I really

will find myself working more efficiently, staying organized, and more easily

collaborating and sharing information using the security-enhanced 2007

Microsoft Office system.

Meanwhile, I’ve been checking out Office 2007 product team blogs

here and there to try to find more facts and less hyperbole. Or at least a more

honest, in-the-trenches grade of hyperbole. I just started in on a collection

of 2007

Office dev team interview videos. Also I’ve found some fairly interesting

blogs on this MSDN

Office 12 blogger list

And you know, I’m sure I’ll have my hands on beta 2 before
too long. Then we’ll see.