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Microsoft wraps around Office XP channel plans

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Microsoft UK is turning to the newsstands to support the May 31 launch of Office XP. The company is giving away a full-functioning time-limited Office XP CD with every copy of the Sunday Times. The CD also features content from U2, the Irish rock group, and television personality Jonathan Ross.

Free CDs will also be distributed through wraparounds for IT publications such as Computing. MS has also teamed up with Future Publishing to produce a one-off Office Magazine (cost £5.99) which also features the 30-day Office XP experience.

MS is concentrating retail promotions through the UK's 12 biggest retailers, with a series of so-called '"red letter days". And the OEM team is hitting the system builder sector with incentives to pre-install OfficeXP on their machines.

The company does not expect massive sales from day one, according to Stephen Uden, head of partner marketing at Microsoft UK. Taking time out of a partner roadshow to promote Office XP to speak to us Uden, said Office XP was "not a spike business. If we do our job properly, we will build momentum nicely through the year".

Of course, most sales destined are the corporate sector. Office XP has a ready-made market here - a third of MS' enterprise customers have licence agreements which entitle them to upgrade to the latest versions of applications and OS software - at no additional cost. This will see Office XP tucking into corporate refresh schedules.

Smart Tags

MS aims to tempt other corporate customers, directly, and indirectly through reseller-built apps, through Smart Tags. (Resellers - or Partners in MS parlance are 'very excited' about this feature, according to Uden).

This feature allow items in Word docs, spreadsheet cells and so on to have properties attached to them. So an entry for a person's name, for example, could 'know' that it's a name, and have knowledge of its entry in your contact book, or as the author of a book, as a company employee with a personnel file, or all of the above and more.

When you're working with that name, or any other item with Smart Tags attached to it, you'd be presented with a number of options for actions to be taken in association with it. Or conceivably, the actions could be automatically carried out. Unlike hyperlinks, they can lead in many different directions, so the possibilities are infinite.

From Microsoft's point of view the system has great potential, both from the point of view of leveraging its own assets from Office, and from that of corporate customers, who can be offered Smart Tags as a further mechanism for automating their businesses.

Personal Productivity

People and companies who use Office 2000, particularly in its most recent iterations, for personal productivity purposes only, have little reason to upgrade to Office XP just yet. The company says it will, as usual, sell and support earlier versions of Office - "as we do with all our software, until the user base gets vanishingly small," Uden says.

An example where support has been withdrawn is Dos 6.0, which still - still! - generates sales of $60,000 a month in the UK alone. ®

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