Microsoft ships new Office 2003 to OEM’s

The software, which includes updated versions of its Excel spreadsheet, Outlook e-mail and Word word-processing programs, also includes new programs OneNote for note taking and InfoPath for creating and using forms.

The biggest changes, however, require companies to buy new server software. The software accommodates features in the Office programs that allow users to instant-message others without switching applications; that allow teams to work together on a document or project; and that set controls on who may view, forward and print files. The company is marketing the new applications, together with the new server software, as Microsoft Office System 2003.

Microsoft will introduce the software officially Oct. 21 in New York.

The estimated retail prices for the suite of Office 2003 software are the same as for Office XP. Microsoft Office Standard Edition 2003 will retail for $399; Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003, $499; and stand-alone programs such as Word, Excel, Access and Powerpoint, at $299. Outlook will retail for $109.

Sales of Office and related programs rose 12 percent in the year ended June 30, as customers bought before Microsoft changed its licensing plan. Microsoft will find it hard to boost Office sales that much this year, as many clients have already signed up for multiyear licenses and others see few reasons to upgrade, analysts said.