With BackOffice 4.0 only recently out the door, Microsoft is already working on the next version, BackOffice 4.5 (code-named "Horton"), which will include numerous new ease-of-use features. BackOffice 4.5 will be timed around the release of SQL Server 7.0 ("Sphinx") and Systems Management Server (SMS) 2.0, which are both due in late 1998. Microsoft will also release an updated version of Small Business Server (SBS) at the same time.

BackOffice 4.5 will include several features--probably based on features in SBS--that make it easy to install, deploy, manage, and use. One nice feature, according to lead product manager Kevin Breunig, is that the suite will be scriptable from Active Scripting languages such as VBScript and JavaScript. Each component of BackOffice 4.5 will also be administrated from Microsoft Management Console (MMC) plug-ins, rather than from separate and confusing administration programs.

"You can save particular consoles for particular administrative users," Breunig said. "You will be able to create a single launch point just for the tools that \[an\] individual needs."

Though BackOffice 4.0 was release less than two months ago, there are still many features in the lower-end SBS that haven't yet made it into the full BackOffice product. That will change with BackOffice 4.5, when the two suite lines are synched up.

"You will see more similarity across the board between BackOffice and Small Business Server," Breunig said