It’s ‘Office 2007,’ as Microsoft reveals its upcoming suite of suites

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It's 'Office 2007,' as Microsoft reveals its upcoming suite of suites

Redmond (WA) – The applications suite formerly known as “Office 12” has plans to change the way users everywhere use their computers, with a radically different usage model. But the retail picture for what Microsoft is now calling Office 2007 looks quite conventional, as the corporation announced today it will be adding two new configurations to its retail Office suites, while continuing the retail product tiers it already has in place.

A look at the September 2005 beta version of Microsoft Office Word, which shows the company’s radically redefined front end.

The addition of what the company is now calling Office Groove 2007 to the new top-tier retail suite – which will be dubbed Office Enterprise 2007, is one more indication of how seriously it intends to extend the influence of CTO Ray Ozzie, whose services and projects it acquired last March from Groove Networks. Groove’s new inclusion in the Office landscape, as the provider of virtual office, network presence, and collaboration tools, effectively shoves SharePoint to one side. In the new scheme, SharePoint’s umbrella collapses a bit, to focus now upon the creation of intranets and corporate portals. SharePoint Web sites will continue to be hosted by SharePoint Server, but will be created with a new tool called SharePoint Designer 2007, which will carry the Office brand but be available separately.

“Office SharePoint Server 2007 will become the single server that unifies portal and content management, business insight and business process capabilities,” reads Microsoft’s statement this morning, “to enable customers to collaborate more effectively, make more informed decisions and control content across line-of-business applications.” So SharePoint will continue to serve as the transit station for Office documents, particularly those being produced by a collaborative team. But point of presence and data relay – all of the point-to-point operations in the networking process – will be handed over to Groove. It may then become up to customers to decide whether to design their business processes toward centralized distribution or kiosks (SharePoint) or “peer-to-peer,” decentralized sharing (Groove).

While the company’s new bundling scheme increases the number of editions of Microsoft Office from five to seven, the number of bundles available through single licenses, purchasable through retail channels, will actually be reduced from five to four. Microsoft has chosen to eliminate the confusing Small Business Management Edition, which had been separate from the Small Business Edition, but included Small Business Accounting 2006. An update for that program was not listed in this morning’s press information. UPDATE 5:30 pm ET 16 February 2006: A Microsoft spokesperson told TG Daily late today that Office Small Business Accounting will be on track for release as a separate product, but apparently including the “Office” banner, sometime during the second half of this year.

Office Professional 2007 reclaims its spot at the most expensive retail bundle, at $499 MSRP or $329 for upgrade – the SBM Edition previously had that spot. The new Professional Plus edition will only be available through volume licensing, as will the newly elevated Enterprise Edition, which encompasses the “Professional Plus” contents but adds Groove. At the bottom tier is the Basic edition, which will continue to be available for pre-installation only on new systems, but will only contain Word, Excel, and Outlook – not PowerPoint, and not Access. Historians will recall that the color-codes for those two products formed the second half of Office’s original “puzzle-piece” logo, which was discontinued after Office XP. The Home and Student Edition ($149 to qualified buyers) will include the Basic components while adding OneNote, not Outlook (available separately for $109 – so much for the student discount), while the newly re-christened Standard Edition will contain Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, with Outlook now the official fourth piece of the puzzle instead of Access, which will now be reserved for the Professional edition and higher.

Added to the company’s slate of Office servers will be a new, upper tier for Project, called Project Portfolio Server, that will cater to the exclusive needs of financial customers. The new server will reportedly enable users to more dynamically allocate monetary and resource investments, along with scheduling and humanpower distribution. Also, beginning with the release of Office 2007, there will be two tiers of client access licenses (CAL) for server products, with the Core license addressing Windows Server and the basic elements, while the Enterprise license adds the new Office Live Communications Server, Windows Rights Management services, and other top-tier options.

Today’s announcement said nothing about the company’s plan – which is still ongoing – to replace the look and feel of Office components with a radically redefined user model, which was premiered to developers last September with mixed results. Microsoft’s apparent toning down of this message may be an indication that it is considering enabling a “classic” look and feel as a bypass option, for customers who might not welcome the change. Besides the “2007” in the product name, no timetable has been set for the suites’ releases.