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Office Web Components “Roadmap”

Since I have been writing this blog, I have periodically been asked “what’s up with the Office Web Componentsâ€.  Today, I wanted to post the official “roadmap†from the Office Web Components team.  Here you go:

As some of you have recently noticed, the Office Web Components are no longer installed when installing Microsoft Office 2007.  The Office Web Components (OWC) are a set of ActiveX® controls that provide four principal components: Spreadsheet, Chart, PivotTable®, and Data Source Control (DSC). 

Microsoft has shipped different versions of OWC in the last three releases of Microsoft® Office, including Microsoft Office 2003, Microsoft Office XP, and Microsoft Office 2000, however, the Office Web Components will not ship with the 2007 Microsoft Office system.  The version of OWC that shipped with the 2003 release of Microsoft Office will be the last revision to this technology.  Additionally, the ability to author OWC-based web pages is also being removed from Microsoft Office 2007 applications such as Microsoft Office Excel® 2007 and Microsoft Office Access 2007, and OWC will not ship with Microsoft Office SharePoint® Designer 2007, which is partially based on Microsoft Office FrontPage® 2003. Though they will not be updated, the components will ship with Microsoft Office Project Server 2007.

The Office Web  Components are being discontinued because Microsoft needed a more flexible technology to help customers address the following challenges they faced with OWC

  • A server-side Excel calculation engine
  • Greater parity with Excel when worksheets are delivered over the Web
  • The ability to enable spreadsheets to be more scalable and stable when loaded onto a server
  • Improved security
  • The ability to perform more detailed analysis to improve overall business intelligence.

In order to address these customer challenges the Enterprise Client Access License (CAL) version of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server  2007 will include a technology called Excel Services that includes:

  • A Server-side Excel calculation engine
  • The ability to enable browser-based worksheet viewing and interactivity
  • Web service access to the spreadsheet calculation engine in Excel.*

*Note that this means that Excel Services has been designed to scale and perform on a server and it is not merely an Excel spreadsheet stored on a server.

For additional information on Excel Services please see http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms546696.aspx or this series of Excel blog posts.

Although OWC is being discontinued it will continue to be supported per the Microsoft Product Life Cycle. This means that important bugs and security issues will continue to be addressed.  Updates to OWC will be delivered through service packs and hotfixes, and the GUIDs for all versions of OWC will remain the same. Also, the most current update of OWC can be downloaded from the Microsoft Download Center at any time. The support time frame for OWC is defined in the table below:

So what should you do if your are currently using solutions that use the Office Web Components?  If the solutions are meeting your present needs then you should continue to use OWC, but if you feel that OWC is lacking certain features to address those needs, be aware that we are discontinuing OWC and no additional features will be added. Many browser-based OWC solutions might be migrated to use the new, thin Excel capabilities on the server, but the server does not provide a complete superset of functionality (for example, typing into any cell in the worksheet or adding new measures or dimensions to a PivotTable view from the browser is not supported).  Rich client applications that embed OWC today might consider building plug-ins for Office Excel 2007 to exploit the new PivotTable, PivotChart, and worksheet capabilities of Excel. For many solutions, there are new advantages to using Excel client or thin Excel capabilities on the server, such as extremely high consistency and fidelity with the Excel client, anywhere access, and Internet service–style licensing models that don’t require licenses or specific Microsoft Office client application versions for all users.  In general, customers will need to review their current solutions to determine if OWC will continue to satisfy their needs or if they would benefit from using the new features provided by Excel Services.