Microsoft yesterday released a set of developer tools it says will help companies extract and present corporate data to desktop users. The tools, available via free CD-ROMs or Internet downloads, are early evidence of Microsoft's knowledge-management strategy, which entails enabling customers to present information from a database, Office document, or Exchange message, through a browser interface. Microsoft calls this concept its Digital Dashboard initiative.
The new Digital Dashboard Starter Kit includes sample HTML code that developers can modify to build "dashboards," or intelligent interfaces, on top of Microsoft's Office 2000, SQL Server 7.0, and Exchange Server 5.5 products. "A challenge for application developers is how they'll expose functionality in their applications through a view in the dashboard," says Bart Wociehowski, group product manager at Microsoft.
John Dykes, a senior architect at Torrance, Calif., integrator InfoCal, says he tested the Starter Kit as a way to begin customizing the code that ties together customers' business data. A current project for a large life-insurance company involves writing dashboards, or dynamic HTML pages, that execute scripts to gather data from a SQL Server database. The system would present financial or sales data to executives via a table or graph within a Web browser. "There aren't many executives who know how to write SQL statements," he says.
Microsoft also released a pair of add-ins for existing products. The Outlook 2000 Team Folder Wizard lets desktop users create and manage folder hierarchies without writing code, the software vendor says. A Team Productivity Update for BackOffice Server 4.5 is aimed at easing the integration of proprietary applications with groupware.
The Digital Dashboard Starter Kit is available for download at here. The Outlook 2000 Team Folder Wizard is available here. The Team Productivity Update for BackOffice Server 4.5 can be ordered from the Microsoft BackOffice Server Web site for BackOffice Server 4.5 customers here.