If you’ve been following the developments around Office Business Applications over the last year or so, you may be wondering  how our current set of technologies relate to some of the things we’ve released and/or talked about before.  I’ve fielded questions along these lines a number of times recently, so I wanted to take this opportunity to clarify our roadmap.


LOBi Services: In June of 2006, we announced our intention to release a CTP of a technology called LOBi Services for SharePoint around the end of 2006.  Since then, we have engaged with many customers and received extensive feedback on how they are leveraging capabilities available in the 2007 Office system release and the capabilities they need in the future. Based on this feedback, we’ve changed the timeline of the LOBi Services additions to ensure these capabilities correctly meet the needs articulated by customers. Consequently, LOBi technologies will now be delivered as a set of capabilities within the Office SharePoint Server as part of the next major set of Microsoft Office product releases (the Office 14 wave).


So what does it mean for customers who were counting on LOBi Services? It is important to note, and our customer discussions confirm this, that many of the scenarios previously announced for LOBi are actually possible using the Office platform available today.  This is at the core of our whole Office Business Applications focus.  Through the use of Office SharePoint Server 2007 and the Business Data Catalog you can connect to line-of-business systems and extend their reach through to the Office clients and servers.  Alternately, you can use web services and the connectivity options available in Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office SE to reach the client applications directly.  


I have personally seen a number of truly remarkable OBAs built on Office 2007 and I’m constantly amazed at what our partners are doing with the technology.  Building on the current platform is the best way to deliver value today and to prepare for the future. Since LOBi technologies will be a natural extension of our future Office platform offerings, you can build your solution using existing Office capabilities and leverage the enhanced capabilities as they become available in a future release.


Information Bridge Framework: A related technology framework, the Information Bridge Framework (IBF) is a higher-level Office solution framework that some customers and partners have invested in.  While customers and partners with existing IBF investments may choose to continue with IBF for select projects, we are recommending that customers and partners do not invest in new IBF-based solutions.  Instead, we recommend that Office solution development projects utilize Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Office 2005 SE (VSTO 2005 SE) and native platform capabilities.  IBF will continue to be supported through our Product Support Services at least until we officially release the LOBi technologies in the Office 14 timeframe.


-   Chris