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Office 2007 To Feature New Workflow And Collaboration Tools

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Retired Tech

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Microsoft plans to deliver Office 2007 later this year in a lineup of seven suites meant to deliver its most sophisticated business customers new features at higher prices, while still keeping users of its core word processing and spreadsheet apps in the fold.

Officially called 2007 Microsoft Office, the new productivity suite will add tools for routing documents around companies, publishing files to workgroups, and instant-messaging at the office to the most popular edition of the software, which appears on the desktops of most business computer users, Microsoft said on Wednesday. Microsoft is also adding a new, top-end edition of the product that includes its Groove and OneNote collaboration apps, and introducing a new Web site design tool called SharePoint Designer, to replace its aging FrontPage software. Microsoft has also revamped the user interface of Office components such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in version 2007 to make commonly used features easier to find.

Office 2007, previously code-named "Office 12," will replace Microsoft's current Office 2003 suite, which will be three years old when the new product arrives. It's an important release for Microsoft—during its fiscal second quarter ended Dec. 31, Office and other "information worker" products contributed one quarter of the company's $11.8 billion in revenue, and 45% of operating profits. Microsoft has been broadening the capabilities of its Office to reflect workplace trends such as increased collaboration among employees of different companies, and large numbers of traveling workers.

To that end, Microsoft has renamed the current Office suite called "Professional Enterprise Edition" as "Office Professional Plus" in the new version, and added the ability to perform complex routing of files around teams of workers, when it's used with Microsoft's upcoming SharePoint Server 2007. Pro Plus will be the company's "workhorse enterprise suite," when version 2007 arrives, says John Cairns, a senior director in Microsoft's information worker group. "That's what most people will use, and what we think will get the most sales going forward," he said. A new edition of Office called the Enterprise edition, includes new versions of the Groove collaboration software Microsoft acquired when it bought Groove Networks last year, and a new version of OneNote, a note-taking application.

Microsoft wouldn't disclose the price of the Professional Plus and Enterprise editions, which are available only through volume license agreements for companies. Currently, Microsoft charges customers that buy software under its "enterprise" licensing agreement premiums of 22% to 30% for each step up they make in the Office line, says Julie Giera, an analyst at Forrester Research. Those differences could hold, though "Microsoft has given us only some general guidelines" on pricing for Office 2007, she adds.

According to Giera, as many as 60% of Microsoft's business customers could upgrade to the Professional Plus edition of Office within six years as requirements for document management and other collaborative tools permeate the workplace. "This is your classic information worker [scenario]," she says. "As these customers come to refresh their licenses, there are a lot of things that are in Office that make life easier." About one fifth of customers are likely to license Microsoft's Standard edition of Office, which carries an upgrade price of $239. Its core package of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint appeals to schools, charities, and other non-profit organizations, she says. The new Enterprise edition will likely be used primarily by "intellectual property heavy" companies in industries such as pharmaceuticals, oil and gas exploration, and defense contracting. "That's a small subset of customers," says Giera. Companies in those sectors will likely pay a premium for collaborative tools to manage worldwide research labs and large groups of product developers working remotely.

To take advantage of many of the server-side capabilities in Office, customers also need to buy from Microsoft client access licenses, or CALs for each desktop, which can range from $75 to $100 per year. When it ships Office 2007, Microsoft plans to introduce a new bundle of CALs that would discount access to a group of server products.
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Retired Tech

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Microsoft has announced packaging and pricing details for its next-generation Office System of client and server products, now officially named "Office 2007." The company is largely keeping prices the same as Office 2003, making minor changes to the suites it will offer.

Scheduled to be available by the end of this year, Office 2007 includes a new user interface that replaces the standard toolbars with "ribbons" offering features specific to the current task. Outlook 2007 has a few new features of its own, including a "To Do" bar for viewing mail, tasks and appointments in a single pane, and a built-in RSS reader.

Server oriented products will also take center stage in Office 2007. Microsoft's acquisition of Groove Networks last year means Groove Server 2007 will join Forms Server, Project and Project Portfolio Server, as well as SharePoint Server. New features include hosted Excel and InfoPath capabilities.

Aside from the new server functionality and task-oriented user interface, the big change coming to Office 2007 is the new Open XML file format. Now a published standard through Ecma International, Microsoft Office Open XML packages editable XML files within a ZIP archive and will be licensed royalty-free.

Three subscription services are also new to Office System in the 2007 release. Office Groove Enterprise Services will be available through volume licensing and offer Web based services for managing Groove 2007 deployments. A $79 per year Live Groove subscription takes the desktop product functionality onto the Web for small businesses.

Finally, Microsoft Office Live, which entered private beta testing on Wednesday, will deliver complementary services for small business customers, such as hosted e-mail and Web sites. Both paid and free ad-supported services will be available as part of Office Live.

On the desktop side, little has changed when it comes to packaging. Office Professional Plus 2007, only for volume licensing customers, will replace Professional Enterprise Edition 2003. A new addition to the Office 2007 suite lineup is Office Enterprise 2007, which adds Groove 2007 and OneNote 2007.

For individuals, Office Professional 2007 features the typical array of Office applications: Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, Access, and Publisher for $499 USD, or $329 USD when purchased as an upgrade. Office Small Business 2007 offers a similar lineup without Microsoft Access for $449 and $279 USD.

Office Standard 2007 will include the four basic applications as before: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook for $399 and $239 USD. However, Microsoft has changed the SKU targeted at students and teachers, naming it Home and Student 2007 and replacing Outlook with OneNote. That version will now be available to all users for $149 USD.

Available only for purchase on new PCs and through OEMs, an even slimmer Office Basic 2007 edition will include Excel, Outlook and Word. Pricing was not given for the Basic SKU.

With 34 options for customers interested in Office 2007, new server software, and new Client Access Licenses, Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox warns that such complexity will make decisions harder for businesses. This issue may be why Microsoft has announced packaging details much earlier than it did for Office 2003.

"My concern is that Microsoft has introduced too much complexity, making more difficult the arduous purchase decision process. Microsoft is right to get information out earlier, because evaluating an Office purchase will be much harder for businesses this release cycle compared to Office 2003 or XP," said Wilcox.

Wilcox also notes that a large chunk of volume licensing customers will see their contracts expire at the end of July. "Releasing Office 2007 desktop and server product information and pricing now will be essential to encouraging customers on the fence about upgrade protection to continue with Enterprise Agreement or Software Assurance."
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