Office New File Extensions

Big news from the Office team yesterday! It looks as if XML is going across the board in Office 12. So much so that they are changing the file extensions to .docx, .pptx, .xlsx. WOW! This is major and very cool.

Quote from Brain’s Post:

To summarize really quickly what’s going on, there will be new XML formats for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in the next version of Office, and they will be the default for each. Without getting too technical, here are some basic points I think are important:

Open Format: These formats use XML and ZIP, and they will be fully documented. Anyone will be able to get the full specs on the formats and there will be a royalty free license for anyone that wants to work with the files.

Compressed: Files saved in these new XML formats are less than 50% the size of the equivalent file saved in the binary formats. This is because we take all of the XML parts that make up any given file, and then we ZIP them. We chose ZIP because it’s already widely in use today and we wanted these files to be easy to work with. (ZIP is a great container format. Of course I’m not the only one who thinks so… a number of other applications also use ZIP for their files too.)

Robust: Between the usage of XML, ZIP, and good documentation the files get a lot more robust. By compartmentalizing our files into multiple parts within the ZIP, it becomes a lot less likely that an entire file will be corrupted (instead of just individual parts). The files are also a lot easier to work with, so it’s less likely that people working on the files outside of Office will cause corruptions.

Backward compatible: There will be updates to Office 2000, XP, and 2003 that will allow those versions to read and write this new format. You don’t have to use the new version of Office to take advantage of these formats. (I think this is really cool. I was a big proponent of doing this work)

Binary Format support: You can still use the current binary formats with the new version of Office. In fact, people can easily change to use the binary formats as the default if that’s what they’d rather do.

New Extensions: The new formats will use new extensions (.docx, .pptx, .xlsx) so you can tell what format the files you are dealing with are, but to the average end user they’ll still just behave like any other Office file. Double click & it opens in the right application.

Xbox 360 – My Thoughts

Well it has been a couple of weeks since the release of information on the Xbox 360. I have been somewhat quiet minus the posting of a few quick links here and there. So now that I have a few minutes to kill while World of Warcraft updates on my Laptop…

Overall Impression:

At a high level I would have to summarize my feelings as “Mmmmm new console gooooodness”. Not specific enough? OK let’s try…”After what seems like an eternity of waiting for information – I am pretty excited and can’t wait to get my hands on what looks like a sweet little machine”.

PS3 vs Xbox 360:

Well there are a load of comparisons going around right now and for the most part those that I have read have been bias to one side or another based on certain affiliations or prejudices. The bottom line is that both consoles “promise” to deliver an excellent gaming experience however until we all get to see some actual gameplay – it’s fairly pointless to argue about which is best. Personally the best I have read yet is probably from Games Blog. It’s relatively impartial and makes reasonable statement from all standpoints.

Bottom line is that both “promise” impressive performance and both have their own unique advantages over the other. How the games utilize the available power will have a huge impact on the overall leader in this area. This is where I see Xbox having the advantage.

What it Will Take to Win

In the end, the console that offers to most exclusive games and best gameplay will undoubtedly win. A couple of things matter here:

Quality of Gameplay:

Even the most diehard gamers want to see significant improvement over the experiences of their previous consoles before they dish out money for the new console. Even those of us that end up with both will probably pick a favorite very early on based on the initial quality of the gameplay. Both new consoles offer major punch when it comes to the next gen hardware but if the game developers are unable to utilize all the power and features…well then it’s pretty much the equivalent to only using your Ferrari to drive your grandmother to church on Sunday. It works but is it really worth bragging about.

This is where I think the Xbox will have an edge. Despite the fact that the Xbox 360 is only a version 2 of their gaming device, the organization as a whole has been extremely successful at building development platforms and empowering developers. Microsoft appears to be working very hard at developing relationships and improving the landscape when it comes to the very difficult (and expensive) area of game development.

Quantity of Games:

Yah I know…quality over quantity but let’s face it. It matters! Part of Sony’s edge in the previous era was the fact that they allowed PS1 games to be played on PS2. It suddenly makes the game shelf look a lot less empty. I am not saying that backwards compatibility is the only answer – but it sure helps when gamers can leverage their previous investments towards the use of new technology. Again the long term winner here will be the company that builds the strongest relationships with developers. Exclusive games rock but at the very least you need to make sure you have lots of exciting titles coming out as quickly post launch as possible. Xbox 360 is starting out with an impressive lineup but the wisest move will be to stack the shelves heavily before Spring 2006.

Marketing:

This is where I really have to admit I am impressed with Xbox. They made a killer move on the MTV deal a week before E3. It was innovative and incredibly effective. In fact the way that Xbox seems to be pulling a lot of innovative moves lately. This shows me that the company is not only in this for the long run (in case there was ever any doubt) but they plan to win. Not to mention that the Xbox team seem to be doing a lot to reach out to the community and build relationships with gamers. This is what marketing is all about these days. Flashy ads and viral web campaigns serve their purpose and are still effective. But nothing beats building relationships with customers…whether that customer happens to be 45 or 15 years old.

All and all – I am pretty excited about what is to happen over the next few months. Game is DEFINITELY on! And I wouldn’t trade my seat for anything…well except maybe one of the new consoles.

3 Days Till Tech-Ed

Well 3 till I touch down in Orlando anyhow…

Shane and I are arriving on Saturday afternoon. A few of us are gonna try and link up on Saturdary evening before the User Group Leader Summit on Sunday so if you are gonna be around drop me a line or leave a comment here. We can hit some local spots before the conference.

Update: Looks like we have a venue for Saturday Night.

SharePoint Pint2Share – Tuesday Evening
Also on Tuesday evening I’ll probably be hosting the Best Practices for SharePoint Development BOF with Rob Foster and Mike Houston (7:45 PM – 8:45 PM in Track Cabana 01A). So if you are a SharePoint geek, drop by and we can all go for a Pint2Share after the session. I’ll send an email out to all those that emailed me before when I first mentioned the SharePoint Geek Gathering. :) In the meantime if this is something that interests you – let me know.