'Dashboard' not fully lit

'Dashboard' not fully lit

Digital Dashboard, Microsoft's concept of a personal portal built on Microsoft Outlook, Exchange and SQL Server, is meeting scepticism from users and analysts. But independent software vendors and integrators are cheering that it is not an out-of-the-box application.

Microsoft introduced the Digital Dashboard in May as a personal portal that would run inside Microsoft Outlook. Last week, the company announced the availability of a Digital Dashboard Starter Kit, a set of software tools designed to help Internet service providers and corporations design Digital Dashboards. And last week, Microsoft demonstrated a Digital Dashboard developed for Texaco that will be rolled out to 50,000 users.

"It seems they are taking existing tools that weren't designed for this and piecing them together rather than designing something new," said Peter Nies, manager of knowledge management information technology at Raytheon Systems. "Knowing Microsoft, they will probably evolve this into a decent product, but I don't see it yet."

Microsoft said users ultimately will create portals to give others access to Outlook and Microsoft Office documents. However, David Coleman, managing director at Collaborative Strategies LLC, a San Francisco-based research firm, said a Microsoft-only approach to collaboration risks cutting off users. "Not everyone does everything in [Microsoft's] environment," he said.

Users are taking a wait-and-see attitude. "I think it has promise, but I need to see more real live [Digital Dashboards] rather than demos," said John Callahan, director of knowledge management at Deloitte Consulting, a division of New York-based Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. Deloitte is moving to Outlook 2000 as a messaging client, which means users will have Outlook open.

This might make an interesting platform for a portal, he said.

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