Microsoft will charge users the same prices for its forthcoming Office XP software as it charges for Office 2000 in a bid to persuade them to upgrade.
Office XP will be launched globally on 31 May, with 160,000 copies of the software available in UK stores throughout June. It will be priced at £199 including VAT. However, actual street prices are likely to be at least £20 less across the board.
Users buying Office 2000 between now and 30 June will be able to obtain upgrades to Office XP free of charge, while Microsoft will also make a 'free' 30-day demo available to new users through its website. They will be charged for postage and packaging, however.
Microsoft is planning to get its trial CD in as many hands as possible. A new launch, XP Magazine, will carry a cover mount with the CD in May, with other magazines following suit from three weeks later. CDs will also be given away at trade road shows in London in May.
Finally, a 20-page special supplement will be given away with the 31 May edition of The Times, and a separate demo CD featuring TV presenter Jonathan Ross will be given away with the Sunday Times on 3 June.
The standard edition of Office XP (Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint) will be sold on the high street at around £429 for new users, and £199 for those upgrading from either Office 97 or Office 2000.
Office XP Pro (Standard plus Access) will cost £519 and £269 respectively, while Office XP Pro Special Edition (Pro plus FrontPage, Sharepoint, Publisher and Intellimouse Explorer) is on offer at a promotional price of £319. All prices include VAT.
Gartner analysts have labelled the product only "nice to have but not a must-have" for Office 2000 users, but do say it is "very attractive" to those currently running Office 97 on their systems.
Office Small Business and Office XP Professional with Publisher packages will also be available pre-installed on some new computers from Dell and other manufacturers.
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