took one of the last steps toward the general availability of the newest version of its office productivity family Monday when it began distributing a half-million copies of the beta 2 version of the newly rebranded Microsoft Office System. Microsoft plans to launch the Office System this summer.
Formerly known simply as Microsoft Office, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant has been trying to reposition its flagship software as an extensible platform for business applications. The productivity suite has taken on the name Office 2003, but Office System itself is an umbrella for a family of products which includes Publisher, FrontPage, SharePoint Portal Server 2.0, and the new InfoPath and OneNote applications.
As part of its plan, Microsoft has also renamed the individual applications that ship with the Office System in an effort to tie them more tightly with the Office brand. For instance, the core Office 2003 applications have become Office Word 2003, Office Excel 2003, Office Outlook 2003, Office PowerPoint 2003 and Office Access 2003. The other applications in the Office System have also taken on the Office moniker.
The Office System is a piece of Microsoft's overall goal to create an office productivity ecosystem that uses XML
to integrate software, servers and services to create a collaborative business environment with strong support for information gathering and sharing.
"Today's work force is geographically dispersed, information-hungry and constantly striving to be more effective and efficient," said Joe Eschbach, corporate vice president of the Information Worker Product Marketing Group at Microsoft. "The applications in the Microsoft Office System are central to addressing these problems, and by offering them all together, we are giving customers the opportunity to experience firsthand how deploying the Microsoft Office System improve communication and collaboration across enterprises -- small and large."
Microsoft explained that Office System was designed to support four key goals:
- Information intelligence, using XML in the applications and research task pane to give organizations better visibility into its information; for instance, its Office SharePoint Portal Server 2.0 is designed to provide personalized access and delivery of business information
- Process management, building on the XML standard support in Office applications to streamline information-gathering with applications like Office InfoPath, and to more easily create and distribute smart documents using the information gathered
- Effective teaming, using the collaborative infrastructure enabled by its SharePoint products and their integration with Office applications; new tools like its Information Rights Management are also intended to support organizations' collaborative efforts
- Personal impact, using the digital note-taking application OneNote, and improvements to Outlook that focus on mobile as well as making it easier to read and manage e-mail, and filter spam.
Because Microsoft envisions Office System as a platform rather than simply as an applications suite, the company is also opening the doors to business partners to create solutions that integrate with its offering. One such partner is Factiva, which has created Factiva News Search, which ties into Office 2003 to give information workers the ability to research Factiva's collection of nearly 8,000 sources directly from their workflow.
For instance a worker drafting a brief in Word 2003 could use Factiva News Search within Word 2003 to look up industry trends from newspapers, journals and newswires and then insert that research into the document. News Search will be integrated into the Research Task Pane of all the core Office 2003 applications.
"Information is only empowering if a business or information worker can use it in the right place at the right time to make or influence a business decision," said Clare Hart, president and CEO of Factiva. "Today, that doesn't happen often enough. Incredible amounts of content are lost or lie untapped around the world because businesses aren't equipped to manage that information.
The beta 2 kit Microsoft released Monday does not include Microsoft Project and Visio, its project management solution family and its diagramming solution, respectively. Both however, come under the Office System curtain.
Other Microsoft products that are part of the ecosystem, though not specifically part of the Office System aegis itself, are the forthcoming Windows Server 2003 and Windows SharePoint Services.