Microsoft's forthcoming Office upgrade may be the latest of the firm's products to hit serious delays. A source close to Microsoft told PC Week US that when the product is finally released, it won't be called Office 98, indicating that delivery of the software has already slipped to 1999. Though believed to have been planned for 1998, the product is not yet in beta testing. Microsoft refused to discuss possible names or delivery dates for the product. The company did reveal, however, that the first version of the new Office suite will be for the Macintosh, not Windows, and will include support for HTML. When Office supports HTML as an additional file format, users will be able to use the suite to publish on corporate intranets and the Web. "With the next version, 70 million users will be able to save to the Web in HTML as easily as saving to their hard drive which means we're getting closer to the reality of the paperless office," claimed Jeremy Gittins, desktop applications marketing manager at Microsoft. Another feature of the future version, said Gittins, would be self-repairing applications. "If something breaks or a customer accidentally deletes a file, the application will auto-fix in the background," he explained. Any delay to the next version of Office means "bad news for Microsoft", commented Simon Moores, chairman of the Windows NT forum, because it gives companies "the opportunity to test alternative products before they go leaping in one direction or the other". He continued: "Microsoft is taking a leaf out of Lotus' book (in supporting HTML). Last year Lotus announced it was Web-enabling WordPro but it didn't take off because not enough companies had intranets. Now the market's more mature, Microsoft has followed the trailblazers and will bolt on new features. It's good news for users." Office 98 for the Mac will ship by mid-1998. This will be the first time in Microsoft's history that a Mac product has preceded one on the PC platform. Applications offered in the Office 98 Macintosh edition will include Word 98, PowerPoint 98, Excel 98, Outlook Express and Internet Explorer. New features include natural language extensions designed to make the software easier to use. MICROSOFT: JUDGEMENT DAY A federal judge jumped on Microsoft last week, ruling that the software giant must license its Windows 95 operating system to PC makers without requiring them also to bundle Internet Explorer. US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson took less than a week to make his temporary decision, which will remain effective until a final decision can be made. Judge Jackson said that the probability that Microsoft will gain a monopoly position in the browser market "is simply too great to tolerate indefinitely until the issue is finally resolved". Of Microsoft's licensing practices, he said: "These practices should be abated until it is conclusively established that they are benign." Jackson did not approve the DoJ's request for a $1 million (#0.6 million) a day fine against Microsoft for violating a consent decree but he did order further investigation of the contempt charge. Microsoft had no immediate response to the ruling.
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