Microsoft tests new version of Office

CIOL Bureau
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SEATTLE: Microsoft Corp. said it started preliminary testing of the next version of its Office productivity software, as the world's largest software maker prepares its products for web-enabled services.

The next version of Office, code-named "Office 11" and due out in mid-2003 after user testing, will include many of the building blocks of Microsoft's broad .NET initiative that aims to provide software and services that will work across platforms and devices, Microsoft said.

Office 11 will broadly support XML, or extensible markup language, which allows data to be shared and exchanged between different types of programs, Microsoft said, making it more suitable for business users. "It's about being connected and connecting business processes," said David Jaffe, lead product manager for Office.

Office, which includes the Word application for documents, Excel for spreadsheet analysis and Powerpoint for presentations, will also be more closely integrated with a feature called SharePoint, which allows groups of people to work on the same document and collaborate without having to exchange files and e-mail repeatedly, informed Jaffe.

Office, which nearly equals and sometimes exceeds Windows as Microsoft's largest franchise, is beginning to see a slowdown. In Microsoft's latest business year, ended June 30, the "Information Worker" segment, which includes Office, dipped 2.5 percent.

© Reuters