The MS Office applications are a big part of the desktop, and for years have faced the same fate as the MS desktop. The MS Office applications have been disconnected with back-end process applications and web data stores, and users use Cntrl-C and Cntrl-V to navigate across the two worlds.
Office Business Applications, aka OBAs, is a product from Microsoft to change that. OBA provides a mechanism to connect Office to back-end Line of business applications. With OBAs, information workers can connect, interact and perform business transactions with Office as a front-end. Sounds good, does'nt it?
But of course, OBAs will only run on the recent versions of Office. OBAs are built using Microsoft Visual Studio for Office, and under the hood, are deployed on Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server, and as given in the Price Management example here and SCM example here, runs on Microsoft middleware stack, on top of an enterprise application. Considering that this is a offering from Microsoft, this was expected. Does'nt Microsoft always want to have it all?
OBAs could be built in other ways and without adding all that stack from Microsoft. Extensio has built its own set of OBAs - which we call as Extender for Excel, and Extender for Outlook, on a SOA backbone. It is free of any Microsoft middleware components, and the server can even run on Linux. And yes, it is built on older Office interfaces of Microsoft and can run on Office 2000+ installations.
Things are beginning to get interesting!