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Office 2003 Released to Manufacturing

Microsoft Office 2003 was released to manufacturing on Tuesday, marking the passing of the torch from the developer team to the marketing team in the run-up to a formal launch that is now set for Oct. 21 in New York.

RTM means the code is finished and is being sent to factories to be pressed onto CDs and placed in boxes. The development milestone ends Microsoft's beta testing program, which the company says included more than 600,000 beta testers over the past year. Along with the RTM, Microsoft announced that pricing for Office 2003 would hold steady from Office XP, which launched in the spring of 2001.

Key enhancements to what will be the first new version of Office in two and a half years include an overhaul of the Outlook interface; a new reading mode in Word, research task panes in all programs; and, in professional versions, XML integration and rights management capabilities.

Microsoft Office Standard Edition 2003 will cost $399, Professional Edition will cost $499 and Student and Teacher Edition will cost $149. Stand-alone products, such as Word 2003, Excel 2003, Access 2003 and PowerPoint 2003 are priced at $229. Outlook 2003 costs $109.

Microsoft also disclosed prices for new stand-alone products in the Microsoft Office System. InfoPath 2003, a client for XML-based business processes, and OneNote 2003, a note-taking component optimized for tablet PCs, are priced at $199. An initial promotion for OneNote offers a $100 mail-in rebate for North American customers.

Also released to manufacturing on Tuesday was Microsoft Office Live Communication Server, formerly known as Greenwich and Real Time Communications Server. That instant messaging and presence server will cost $929 for the server plus $35 per Client Access License (CAL).

Microsoft also made available pricing information for another server component of the Microsoft Office System -- Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 -- even though that product does not appear to have hit RTM yet. A technical refresh of the Beta 2 version of SharePoint went out to testers in July.

SharePoint will cost $4,000 as a stand-alone server and $72 for each CAL. A packaged version that includes 5 CALs will be available at retail only for $5,620. Microsoft also offers an External Connector License for SharePoint for $30,000.

The key server-side component of the Office System, Exchange Server 2003, was released to manufacturing in June. Microsoft Project, which has both client and server components, was scheduled to be released to manufacturing on Monday.

About the Author

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