BI is one of Microsoft’s core market activities for this financial year. It is seen by the company as its main product differentiator, in particular adding value to Excel 2007, to help leverage upgrades from Excel 2003. Of course, Office applications repositioned within BI allow Microsoft to tap into the predicted growth in the BI market, providing a good way for the company to boost sales, and to differentiate its Office applications from competition, such as Google’s no-cost spreadsheet.
The new Excel Services technology is due for release by Microsoft at the same time as the delayed Office 2007. Excel Services will provide functionality such as spreadsheet calculations on the server-side, with browser rendering, and web services interfaces. Excel Services will also bring with it collaboration functionality that allows teams and organizations to share spreadsheets through the browser in portals and BI dashboards, and to manage spreadsheets with controls and security.
These plans could spell the end of the proliferation of single-user spreadsheets, or ‘spread-marts,’ and the beginning of an era of enterprise-wide spreadsheets with improved accuracy and reliability.
To benefit from Excel Services, customers who do not already have SharePoint will have to increase their investment in Microsoft platforms. Research by Butler Group indicates that Office SharePoint Server 2007 could become the de facto back-end for many of the Office-based applications and services. Indeed, in a recent survey, around 60% of respondents indicated that they had already deployed SharePoint or planned to do so over the next 24 months.