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Microsoft Sets Office 2003 Lineup

The next edition of the productivity suite will offer six bundle choices, up from four versions of Office XP
When Microsoft launches Office 2003 this summer, users will have half again as many bundle choices as they did with Office XP. The six Office 2003 application bundles on tap are Professional Enterprise; Professional; Standard; Small Business; Students and Teachers; and Basic. The Office XP suite came in just four configurations: Professional; Standard; Students and Teachers; and Developer.

Gone is Developer Edition, which essentially packaged the applications in Office XP Professional Edition with FrontPage, the company's Web designer, and SharePoint Team Services, its collaboration workspace technology. Instead, Microsoft will steer corporate developers to a new bundle, Visual Studio Tools for Office.

Noticeably missing is OneNote, one of the applications in the Office System line that Microsoft has been heavily touting this spring.

OneNote, a free-form, note-taking application that lets users create, store, and retrieve typed and handwritten notes, isn't included in any of the Office 2003 collections. It will only be offered as a stand-alone purchase through retail, original equipment maker, and licensing channels.

"We think OneNote has value in itself," said Simon Marks, Microsoft's product manager for Office.

"That's not too surprising," said Rob Helm, director of research with Decisions on Microsoft, a firm that tracks Microsoft's moves. "OneNote is in the same camp as Project and Visio, an application that's popular only with a small group of users."

Gartner's Michael Silver had forecast that OneNote wouldn't be bundled into Office 2003, citing continued government scrutiny and a push by Microsoft to expand Office's contribution to the bottom line.

A new piece of software, InfoPath, a client in the Office System lineup that aims to bring E-form creation and filing to the desktop, will be embedded only in the highest-end Professional Enterprise Edition. This version of Office will be made available only to business and academic customers subscribing to Microsoft's volume licensing programs.

"I think this is where InfoPath belongs," Helm said. "It's an excellent app, but I can't see how you can exploit it unless you have developers handy."

Another Office 2003 bundle, the Small Business Edition, also caught Helm's eye.

"It seems to be aimed at those buying Corel via OEM channels," he said, pointing out that the core applications in this edition--Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint--are very similar to the mix Corel delivers in its aggressive equipment-maker programs. Small Business "is addressing the same market."

The Office 2003 offerings break down like this:

- Professional Enterprise Edition: Includes Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Access, Microsoft's database. Also part of the mix are InfoPath, Publisher, Business Contact Manager, and other tools for customer-defined XML schemas, information rights management, and content creation and authoring. Professional Enterprise will be sold only to business and academic volume licensing customers.- Professional: Sold at retail through deals with equipment makers and to the education market, this bundle includes all the applications found in Professional Enterprise with the exception of InfoPath. - Standard: Includes what Marks calls the "core Office suite," of Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. This version will be sold through retail and via all volume licensing agreements. - Small Business: Includes Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, Microsoft's desktop document designer, and Business Contact Manager. It will be put into retail, original equipment maker, and Open License channels. - Basic: This bare-bones edition will be available only as a pre-installed suite on new computers and includes just three applications, Word, Excel, and Outlook. - Student and Teacher: Sold at retail and to academic customers, Student and Teacher includes Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint.