Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's president, unveiled the revamped and oft delayed Office 2000 applications suite at an event in San Francisco on Monday.
The latest incarnation of the productivity suite, which already has a 89 per cent market share, includes new versions of the Word word processor, Excel spreadsheet, Powerpoint presentation application, and Access database.
It also includes the company's Frontpage Web authoring tool and its new Photodraw 2000 business graphics software for the first time.
Ballmer touted the suite's Office Server Extensions (OSE) middleware, saying: "The new Office Web collaboration services announced today will allow users in both large and small business to benefit from the Web work style, regardless of their Web server infrastructure." He claimed that OSE, which runs on Windows NT Server and Workstation, improved collaboration between Office documents and Web pages by providing users with a way to store and access server based files from an Office browser. It also facilitated activities such as Web publishing, Web discussions, and subscription and notification.
The new Web collaboration services are based on Web Server Extensions that are built into Frontpage 2000 and enable users who do not have a Web server onsite to collaborate on Office documents via an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that supports the new program.
Support for the Frontpage Server Extensions enables users to publish documents directly to Web sites hosted by the ISPs, and to collaborate within these documents.
But Office 2000 also uses HTML as a companion file format despite criticism in online forums about how tightly integrated the product is with Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.
Outside the San Francisco launch Microsoft executives have been trying to emphasise how easy it is to upgrade to the new suite because Office 2000 has a single code base worldwide, which means multinationals will no longer have to maintain dozens of different versions.
But analysts believe that businesses will not rush to upgrade as they did with Office 97 because of the Year 2000 problem and the non appearance of Windows 2000, which will make them more cautious.
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