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Microsoft spells out Office 2007 lineup

Here comes Office 2007. The next version of Microsoft's application suite will be ready this year along with the Vista desktop, but it will be a while before they both show up in the enterprise.

Microsoft came clean this week with more details of the next version of its application suite, formerly known as Office 12 but now officially named Office 2007.

The software suite highlights the collaboration between applications and specialized servers for the system. The software is currently in beta and slated to ship in the second half of this year. It may be awhile before the new suite starts appearing on desktops, said one expert.

"People often like to deploy a new Office with a new OS," he said. "So we may not see adoption of this until Vista is ready," said Michael Silver, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

Vista is not expected to ship until sometime later this year. Widespread adoption of that platform might not be for some time as well.

Microsoft has added an edition of the product for large business customers, called Office Enterprise 2007. Another enterprise version, previously known as Office Professional Enterprise Editions 2003 is now updated and called Office Professional Plus 2007.

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Office Enterprise is the most robust version of the suite to date, said Jason Bunge, a senior product manager with Microsoft. The edition includes technology acquired from Groove Networks and also from Microsoft's Office OneNote, both relatively new capabilities in the software-maker's portfolio.

The Groove technology lets small teams of workers create a communal workspace and share information, even without network access, Bunge said.

The highlight of the release is the collaboration piece, said Bob Tarzey, an analyst with Quocirca Ltd., a U.K.-based consulting firm. Office 2007 deepens the level of collaboration among the programs Word, Excel and PowerPoint through the use of Microsoft's SharePoint Portal Server. While it is possible to use Office applications without the SharePoint Server, Tarzey said the applications will be better for those who use it with the server tools.

"This will allow users to pull templates from the SharePoint Portal and modify [them] in a central place that is accessible by all users," he said.

Tarzey thought the release would more closely unite SharePoint and Office in the same vein that Exchange and Outlook are tied together.

Silver acknowledged the emphasis on the server-application relationship, too. "This is Microsoft's way of ensuring Office is not a commodity," he said.

Silver also noted that with Office 2003, many customers invested in the desktop tools initially, but took some time before purchasing server-side products.

Microsoft could not offer specifics about pricing for the new enterprise edition of Office. The edition is available through volume licensing only.

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