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Microsoft On Schedule to Ship Office XP
By Allison Linn   Associated Press
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SEATTLE — Microsoft Corp. has completed its latest version of Office — called "XP" — on time, a relative rarity in the setback-prone technology field.

"Of all the things that I prepared for as a computer programmer, shipping on time wasn't one of them," Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president in charge of Office, said last week after Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and chief executive Steve Ballmer signed off on the product.

Copies of OfficeXP, a package of word-processing, spreadsheet, e-mail and other software, will be available for retail purchase later this spring, the company said in a statement Monday.

Microsoft, which has not yet priced the new Office, is touting user-friendly features that will allow people to connect to each other and to Internet-based resources more easily.

New features include Sharepoint, which lets people set up their own private Web sites to share information.

XP also includes Smart Tags, which recognizes names or other information you have typed in before. If a person types in a name in a Microsoft Word document, for example, XP might ask you if you want to get that person's address or e-mail address out of your Outlook system, or see if you have an appointment scheduled.

The company is also touting an updated system that saves data automatically when a crash occurs.

Despite Microsoft's belief that consumers will continue to pay to upgrade their PC systems, some are skeptical that the company will reach Ballmer's goal of selling more than 50 million copies of the new software.

Laura DiDio, an analyst with Giga Information Systems, said she doesn't think the product offers sufficiently compelling new features to warrant an upgrade, especially for people who have just recently adopted Office 2000. That's about 40 percent of Office customers, according to Microsoft.

She also said customers might be confused by an upgrade that comes as the company seems to be focusing heavily on its Internet-based .NET systems but, in her mind, doesn't make a close enough connection between that and Office.

"They've got all these different initiatives," she said. "Initially at least, none of them has any cohesion."

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