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The Microsoft exec in charge of Office has dismissed last week's tie-up between Sun and Google as illusion rather than substance.

"That announcement didn't have anything," Chris Capossela, corporate vice president,Information Worker Product Management Group of Microsoft, told a crowd of Dutch reporters last week.

"It had something about a toolbar and Java Runtime, and it alluded to a potential thing some time in the future. OpenOffice isn’t hard to get, just go to their website and download the software."

"Of course we pay attention to what is going on elsewhere, but there was no substance to that announcement," Capossela said. "It is not that there is a distribution problem with OpenOffice. The product is right there. I didn't see anything that causes any change. Sun makes very expensive proprietary hardware, while Google offers free software for the masses. Is that a marriage made in heaven? I don't know."

Last week it became apparent that Sun and Google are not creating an anti-Microsoft alliance, at least for now. The companies have agreed only to explore opportunities to promote and enhance Sun technologies, like the Java Runtime Environment and the OpenOffice productivity suite. Google co-founder Sergey Brin last week flatly denied that there are plans for a web-based productivity suite under the name Google Office.

Microsoft has no plans for a web-based Office suite either. "We see Office as a front end to business processes," Capossela says. "There is an opportunity to take the unstructured world of MS Office, and the very structured world of ERP and CRM systems and integrate them more deeply. The best example is MS CRM, which we will release shortly as version 3.0. It is build directly into MS Outlook."

He also referred to Office Communicator, an integrated communications client, which even federates AOL, MSN and Yahoo users. "You can turn an instant message into a video conversation, rather than using a separate video application. We also integrate it with your PBX system, and with Exchange and Outlook, so that when you are in a meeting, you can go to voice mail. We do a better job now of integrating these functions."

Capossela added that Microsoft is making an effort to cut down the volume of email people are getting. "People often collaborate through email. They send each other attachments, which is a very inefficient way to work together on projects. We believe that innovations in the new Office 12 - such as Sharepoint and Groove - will ease the pain dramatically. Groove makes it easy to create team spaces, where people can work on projects."

Groove, of course, is the provider of tools for ad-hoc workgroups, which was recently taken over by Microsoft. Founder Ray Ozzie is the man behind Lotus Notes. Is Microsoft perhaps moving away from email and conceptually going back to Lotus Notes? Well, yes and no.

"The thing that Lotus Notes did not well at all was to solve inter-company problems," Capossela says. "With Notes you could easily build applications within the company, but it was extremely hard to expand that out. We now see that people are moving away from Notes, and start using Groove instead.” ®

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