9 October 2002 Software giant Microsoft is expected to unveil today a new product that will act as a data collection tool for business users of its Office suite.
Microsoft plans to start shipping its new product, code-named “XDocs”, in mid-2003. XDocs will interact with Office applications, such as Word and the Outlook email client. But it is unclear if XDocs will be bundled with the next version of Office 11, which is slated for release about the same time.
The company claims that XDocs will enable users to retrieve and generate customised electronic forms, which can be integrated with an automated business process and linked to back-end systems. Such software can replace paper-based systems and legacy computers that might not be easily adaptable to communicate with other systems, according to Microsoft.
For example, a sales person on the road could pull up an XDocs document and fill in details about an appointment with a client, such as customer feedback, as well as their travel expenses. This document could then initiate a business process to arrange a follow-up meeting with the client by email.
XDocs will be based on the extensible mark-up language (XML) data exchange standard. Organisations will be able to use XDocs to input or retrieve data from any XML-enabled database, such as Oracle, IBM DB2 or Microsoft SQL Server. Microsoft plans to make XML the core data format for Office 11.
Microsoft believes that XDocs will help it shore up its lucrative desktop-application business. This division generated sales of $9.6 million (€9.8m) in the company’s financial year ending June 2002.