Microsoft has started shipping its Small Business edition of Office 97.
The new edition contains six Office applications: Word; Excel; Microsoft Publisher; AutoRoute Express for Great Britain; Small Business Financial Manager and Outlook; plus Internet Explorer. Users are also offered a free month's worth of Internet connection time through the Microsoft Network.
Small Business Financial Manager is a new application. It is designed to help companies use Excel in conjunction with their existing accounting packages.
The Small Business Financial Manager component will not be available until May. Users who buy the package before then will receive a voucher, entitling them to the software when it ships.
It is the first time Microsoft has decided to issue a specially adapted small business version of Office. David Bennie, product manager for Office 97 at Microsoft UK, said: "We've spent the last year researching the needs of UK small businesses and talking to a range of small business owners.
"The research indicated that small businesses want three things: tools that are targeted to their needs, are easy to learn and support, and that give them access to the power of the Internet. That's why we are delivering the Small Business edition."
From its research, Microsoft found that users demanded word processing and spreadsheet programs as a prerequisite in an Office suite. It also discovered that users wanted Internet tools and Internet access, plus information on how to market themselves effectively on the web. Desktop publishing and mapping software were likewise high on customer wish lists, and many of those questioned asked for more effective tools to analyse the performance of their businesses.
Office 97 Small Business edition is sold at the same price as the standard Microsoft Office 97, #325. Upgrades, from any Microsoft Office suite or competing products cost #169.
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