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
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
- 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
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.