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."