Now here’s an unexpected bit of news. Microsoft has bought iView Multimedia, makers of the iView MediaPro and iView Media digital asset management applications. iView MediaPro in particular is well-regarded as a photo cataloging tool, since it can catalog files in over 120 formats, leaving the originals in place and providing browsing of the catalog even when the originals are offline (stored on DVD, for instance). iView MediaPro even has some image editing capabilities, though I always found them rather confusing and difficult to use, at least in comparison to Apple’s iPhoto.
iView Multimedia’s acquisition FAQ and letter from founder Yan Calotychos are typically vague, talking about how the acquisition will give iView Multimedia the capability to "enhance our industry-leading product, whilst strengthening our customer service and support." According to the FAQ, "Microsoft has many exciting plans for iView’s technologies and product line. Details on future product plans and availability will be announced at a future date."
With no hints as to future directions, we can do little but speculate as to what’s going on here. Microsoft has long lacked a graphics application for Microsoft Office on the Mac, even though Word has some image manipulation capabilities and PowerPoint has some graphics tools. It’s possible that Microsoft views iView MediaPro as an intermediary for graphics between the different Office applications, much as Entourage is intended in part as the project management glue for the different Office applications.
Where I’d like to see Microsoft concentrate significant effort in the next version of Office for the Mac is on collaboration. As I’ve written more than once, Word has decent change tracking and commenting features, but those are only a baby step in the right direction. Office documents of all types are routinely shared among members of a workgroup as Word files are commented on and edited, Excel spreadsheets are added to, and PowerPoint decks are massaged for clarity. But Office provides no help at all for sharing those files across a variety of network types, showing the status of who’s working on what, and maintaining versions of changed files over time. What I’m describing isn’t some niche feature, it’s something that, if implemented properly, would become essential to the workflow of every Office-using organization, large or small.