Microsoft is running a conference next February dedicated to building solutions using Office – Office Developer Conference 2008. It should be an interesting event. Office generates more than a little bit of revenue for Microsoft, but its future is cloudy, literally, as the buzz around ‘software as a service’ (SaaS) is translated into ‘Cloud Computing’. Microsoft has its own take on the buzz, preferring the phrase ‘software plus services’ instead. It would be easy to dismiss the phrase as typical Microsoft, re-branding technology to suit its own purpose. But, in many ways, it’s a more accurate acronym. Steve Clayton has a good post providing examples beyond Microsoft. We are still likely to continue using hardware devices, even when relying on the Internet to host our data and applications. Those hardware devices (and it’s no longer just about PCs) still need software to connect to the Web and, like it or not, browsers have their limitations.

So, for me, there are two reasons to attend the conference. Checking out the deal on Office Live and how Office is finally shaping in a world where the web services are more important than the client software. And BillG is keynoting. July 2008 is when he is due to finally step down from daily Microsoft activities, suggesting future tech conference appearances will be rarer. He’s also due to keynote at the SharePoint 2008 conference taking place one month later.

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