Lotus has launched its latest set of desktop utility programs in its continuing battle with arch rival Microsoft Office.
Smartsuite Millennium Edition Release 9.5 office application suite is available now in Europe, having been launched in the US at PC Expo in June.
According to the company, it has over 100 enhancements including a new version of Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, Wordpro word processor, Freelance presentation program and Organizer time and contact manager.
In addition, it also includes IBM's Viavoice integrated speech recognition, collaborative Internet functionality and integration with Lotus' Domino.
Jim Burnham, Lotus Smartsuite general manager, said the main improvement to the suite is its increased compatibility with Microsoft Office applications.
"It has support for Wordperfect, MS Word and Amipro," he said. "Upgrading is also not a problem. Unlike moving to Windows 2000, corporate customers do not need new hardware, and will not need to retrain staff, the look and feel has remained the same."
Burnham said that some features of the new release would appeal particularly to small and medium businesses (SMB) and the company is involved in some of IBM's SMB initiatives.
Fastsite Release 2 Web Publisher, he said, allows users to build a complete customised Web site in minutes.
"It is useful for small businesses that can't afford Frontpage, but need to get something on the Internet fast, and in a simple way. College professors use it for publishing documents such as syllabuses," he added.
Gartner Group analyst Jay Wynn commented: "As an independent offering, Lotus Smartsuite faces intense competition in the office applications market, most notably from Microsoft."
He added: "The key competitive advantage for Smartsuite is that IBM can combine it with a variety of product and service offerings for small and medium size businesses to provide a customised and integrated technology solution."
Smartsuite Millennium edition 9.5 is available now and costs £349.99, or £149.99 for an upgrade.
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