Is this the desktop of your future?

Is this the desktop of your future?

Microsoft's answer to the phenomenon of the enterprise information portal is the Digital Dashboard. Built on top of existing Microsoft technologies like Exchange, Outlook, SQL Server and Windows NT, the dashboard is a way to tie in disparate sources of information into a workspace which every employee can use every day.


The Outlook Shortcuts tool bar is familiar to users of Microsoft Outlook, with features for accessing email, calendaring, contact databases, task managers and other notes. This tool bar can be configured in a dashboard to appear on any side of the screen, and the buttons can be customised or rearranged.

The core part of the digital dashboard is email, as knowledge workers are spending more and more of their time doing work (or otherwise) in their mail client. The thin Dynamic HTML version of Outlook functions much the same as the fat Windows client.

One advantage of being continuously Net-connected within corporate environments is the ability to include dynamically updated content within the digital dashboard. This can be text, such as a stock ticker (below) or a Web-connected camera to check traffic (right). Other applications could include video and optional audio from videoconferencing sessions, or live updates of sports scores.

The digital dashboard is not comprised of one screen only. With the help of systems integrators and/or internal developers, the dashboard can be linked to many other business applications like business intelligence, financial systems, project management applications (such as Microsoft's own MS Project), and other business analysis tools which extend far beyond the desktop.

The burning issue with most enterprise information portals is integrating the two different types of data: structured information inside relational databases, and unstructured data inside document management systems. The digital dashboard takes data warehouse-driven business intelligence reports like this one to the desktop by using SQL Server as the repository.

Features from elsewhere inside Outlook, such as this Calendar, can be turned into an "info nugget" and rendered as HTML content complete with hyperlinks to other parts of the dashboard.

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