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Microsoft has opened the throttle on marketing the latest edition of Office, now tightly integrated with various collaborative and server products via XML. Office 2003 also introduces Microsoft's first application-level Digital Rights Management (DRM) software, Information Rights Management (IRM) restricting who can copy, read, print and distribute email, Word or Excel documents.

Publicity will drive the message of increased collaborative capabilities via an updated Outlook, SharePoint Portal services, Office Live Communications Server, and the introduction of One Note. Office is also integrated with XML-based web services. The launch is sure to be backed by carefully rehearsed customer endorsements and supporting announcements from partners like Hewlett Packard.

Microsoft is opening the throttle with good reason: the Office customer base is languishing as organizations refuse to upgrade. However, the Office System will be a tough-sell. There are few actual improvements to code features like Word or Excel, while the combination of price and thorny issue of Software Assurance will continue to deter many organizations from paying.

Customers must pay $399 for Office 2003 Standard Edition, which excludes many of the choicer collaboration features such as InfoPath, featured in Office Professional for $499.

One thing is for sure. Sun Microsystems, which recently launched its fixed-price Java desktop based on StarOffice, will exploit those prices. StarOffice and Corel's WordPerfect hold just 10% market share, but that will not stop Sun from seeking to expand its share in coming months, targeting organizations on low-budgets.

Sun claims that an Indian insurance company recently switched 10,000 seats from Office to StarOffice, based on cost of purchase and on-going support through SA.

Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor

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