Microsoft announced more details on Office 2010 today. It's a healthy release from my perspective: more, simpler, better, faster, cleaner. But there's an interesting new thing that Microsoft has introduced with this release. They call it "Backstage," but it might be easier to think of it as the context of the document — everything you need know about it and everything that you can do with it.
At the highest level, Backstage is all the stuff you do once the document has been created: save it, print it, email it, etc. It's also all of the metadata associated with the document: permissions, version history, etc. This makes it much easier for teams to collaborate on documents and for documents to be part of a workflow or business process.
It looks like this:
So why does this matter? Three reasons:
The "context" of the document as visible as the contents of the document. It's as if the book just got a cover, a card catalog label, and an availability tracker. Wow. Metadata that matters to anyone who's looking for the document.
Documents can carry their permissions around with them in a machine-manageable way. This is critical in a world where IT doesn't always control the devices that information workers use to access documents. For security reasons alone, it's valuable to have the permissions explicit and attached to the document itself.
Backstage is extensible.That means IT shops and third-party developers can build applications that attach context to important documents. For example, a budgeting process goes through approval steps. For the first time, the document itself can carry the status on the book jacket, not at the top of the doc itself. This matters because computers can update the status easily by changing the metadata value.
Clearly, we all need to go learn a lot more about Microsoft's intentions to utilize Backstage as a core platform element of the Office 2010 system. For example, how will Backstage by harnessed by SharePoint? But in the meantime, it's something new to consider as the Office 2010 train pulls out of the station.
Thoughts, comments, concerns? Please comment.