Microsoft Corp. unveiled on Wednesday multiple versions of its upcoming Office business software suite with features that aim to simplify worker collaboration and improve efficiency.
The 2007 Microsoft Office, previously code-named Microsoft Office 12, is the successor to its Office business application franchise, which packages together word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and other programs.
The upgrade to Office and a separate upgrade to the Windows operating system planned for later this year are crucial for Microsoft since those two businesses account for more than half of the company's total revenue.
Microsoft's challenge is to maintain its dominance in those desktop application even as it moves some software and services online to better compete with the likes of Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc.
In the second half of 2006 Microsoft is scheduled to launch an upgraded version of Office with redesigned user interface which aims to simplify the task of finding features already available within its family of programs, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook.
Microsoft last launched an Office upgrade in September 2003.
"We really think this is the most significant advance in Office in a decade," said Parri Munsell, Microsoft's group program manager of Information Worker licensing and pricing.
Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2007, the main product for corporate customers, will integrate capabilities of SharePoint, a collaboration program and Web portal that is designed to run over corporate networks and the Internet.
This version will also incorporate Microsoft Office Communicator, a corporate instant messaging service.
A premium edition, Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007, incorporates another work-sharing technology from Groove Networks Inc., the company Microsoft acquired last year and whose founder, Ray Ozzie, is now Microsoft's Web services guru.
Office Groove allows a group to synchronize in real time the progress made by its members, while also providing the flexibility to work offline before reconnecting with the rest of the group to update any new developments.
The Redmond, Washington-based company will also offer a consumer version with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007. There is also a basic offering that is preloaded onto some PCs, a version for small businesses and a standard suite of products.
Microsoft also announced a range of Office 2007-related server products, including an updated SharePoint Server, a projects server and a server to create forms hosted on the Internet that the company says will make it easier for users to collaborate and share documents and data.