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Microsoft Launches Office XP

NEW YORK – At the Office XP launch Thursday, Microsoft Corp. chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates argued the case that personal productivity software has not yet reached its pinnacle.

The argument is critical for Microsoft to win to make a successful product of Office XP, which goes into general availability amid concerns that the productivity improvements made possible by suites of word processors, spreadsheets and e-mail have crossed the hump and are beginning to bring diminishing returns to corporations.

"We are way short of what it's possible to do for these knowledge workers," Gates said. He contended the productivity gains that economic gurus like Alan Greenspan have credited to software are just beginning.

Gates demonstrated a slide showing that Microsoft's studies of worker productivity indicate that knowledge workers spend 30 percent of their time searching for information and reading information.

Microsoft demonstrated several features in Office XP addressing those needs Thursday, including broader search functionality and SmartTags. Office XP searches now hunt across documents created with different Microsoft Office applications, and can search beyond an individual computer. The SmartTags, which appear in individual Office applications, allow for quick linking to other documents and items on the Web.

"A theme of Windows XP is unlocking hidden knowledge," Gates said.

Microsoft has also made a major push with collaboration efforts, bringing Office XP more squarely into competition with the historically collaboration-focused Lotus Domino/Notes product set.

One demonstrator at the launch was Ford Motor Co., which uses Office XP in combination with BizTalk Server 2000 and SQL Server 2000 to coordinate about a dozen suppliers as inventory and supply requirements change.

"They like the synchronization with Ford, and they also like how easy it is to implement," said Marv Adams, vice president and CIO for Ford.

Gates outlined some of the improvements that still must be made in office productivity suites, most notably the integration of screen and phone. Much of that will be addressed as Microsoft's .NET services come to market over the next few years, he said.

Office XP is the seventh release of Microsoft Office, which launched in October 1990. The product has grown a bundle of three unrelated applications to an integrated family of 10 applications with a common interface.

Along with the core Office XP suite components of Word 2002, Outlook 2002, Excel 2002, PowerPoint 2002 and Access 2002, several related products were going into general availability on Thursday. They are SharePoint Portal Server 2002, FrontPage 202, MapPoint 2002, Outlook Mobile Manager, Publisher 2002 and Visio 2002.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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