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Microsoft And SAP To Deliver New 'Duet' Software In June

Duet will cost $125 per PC. Perhaps more importantly for Microsoft, it might offer a reason for companies to upgrade their Office apps.
Microsoft and SAP said Tuesday that new software called Duet, which can link portions of the companies' software together to perform everyday office tasks, will be available June 28 and cost at least $125 per PC that runs it.

Duet, the result of a yearlong development project between the software vendors, will be aimed at large companies that want to tie business data from SAP's accounting, human resources, and inventory software systems to Microsoft's Outlook E-mail program. The companies are promising that Duet will later be able to funnel data to other Microsoft Office apps, including Excel. Duet, formerly code-named "Mendocino," will be sold by both Microsoft and SAP, as well as by the companies' channel partners.

Microsoft client-access licenses for Duet--required for each PC running the software--will carry a list price of $125, says Chris Caren, a general manager in Microsoft's Office business applications group. Companies will also need licenses for MySAP ERP 2004, Microsoft Office 2003 Professional Edition or higher, Windows Server, and Exchange Server for each Duet user. Add-on software due later this year will let companies run Duet with upcoming versions of MySAP and Office that the vendors are developing.

Using Duet, workers will be able to perform business tasks such as monitoring budgets, tracking billable hours, managing vacation schedules, and conducting performance reviews from within Microsoft Outlook while pulling data from SAP's business apps. In a recent demonstration, SAP showed Duet's ability to set up special folders in Outlook that let multiple workers subscribe to reports from SAP apps. A vacation scheduling app lets users report hours worked with Outlook's calendar user interface. Duet's budget monitoring tool features a right-hand task bar in Outlook that shows graphs and charts of project budgets--and lets managers view the impact of moving funds among projects by dragging and dropping information among those graphs. A forthcoming travel app will let employees search for flights and hotels, submit requests to managers, and book approved travel in SAP's accounting software.

About 100 companies have been testing Duet, including Indian IT outsourcing company Infosys Technologies and Kleenex maker Kimberly-Clark Corp.

For Microsoft, Duet could give companies new reasons to upgrade to the latest version of Office--only about half of Office users at companies with $1 billion or more in annual revenue run the latest version, says Microsoft's Caren. Kevin Fliess, a VP of marketing at SAP, says Duet can get SAP's traditional back-office applications "into more information workers' hands."

Microsoft and SAP plan during the third quarter to deliver the first of two "value packs" that add support for the next version of SAP's software, MySAP ERP 2005, due by the end of the year. The software, which carries no additional charge, will add to Duet applications for recruitment, travel approval, and data analysis. A second value pack will let companies use Duet with the Professional Plus and Enterprise editions of Microsoft's upcoming Office 2007 productivity suite. That software will add Duet applications for purchasing and customer relationship management.