Microsoft launches Office 2003

With emphasis on collaboration and information sharing, Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday launched its Office System 2003 – the latest iteration of the company’s Office Suite that is now being touted as a complete business solution.

The hallmarks of the office system include enhanced integration between Office applications and the back-end systems, enabled through extensible markup language (XML) allowing for easier collaboration, along with new note-taking application dubbed OneNote, and an information sharing application called InfoPath. [Please see :Microsoft releases prices, availability of Office 2003.]

Microsoft has also released SharePoint Services 2003 for Windows Server 2003, which allows users to create Web sites to share and collaborate on information over the Internet – a product that has become useful to a health organization in B.C.

The Fraser Health Authority (FHA) based in Surrey, B.C. was created in 2001 after three healthcare organizations merged. With this non-profit group providing services to 33 per cent of B.C. through 12 hospitals and dozens of community centres, the FHA was facing an information management headache, and the FHA was having a significant amount of difficulty starting, collaborating and implementing new projects effectively.

Having already a significant investment in Microsoft technology, James Orobko, director, information management services at the FHA turned once again to this Redmond, Wash.-based company.

Using the electronic forms from InfoPath 2003, and a Windows SharePoint Services Portal site for each new project or proposal, Orobko said it is now easy for users in disparate locations to collaborate on projects and have easy access to the same versions of information.

The FHA said it now takes about 15 hours less on average to initiate, approve and implement new projects, and expects the implementation of Office 2003 to pay for itself over the next 16 months.

Vito Mabrucco, group vice-president at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, said businesses are entering a new era of computing whereby the desktop becomes an extension of the network, as opposed to the current client-server model.

Microsoft is marketing the solution to companies that already have an extensive investment in Microsoft applications and aren’t so large that they don’t need point business process management (BPM) solutions, he said.

He said the new features of Microsoft Office will allow customers, for example, who run their entire business on Excel to leverage the collaborative features Office is offering and continue along the same path, without having to overhaul their systems.

Microsoft Office Professional Edition is available through volume licensing only. The Professional Edition costs $759 new or $489 to upgrade, whereas the Small Business Edition costs $659 new or $419 to upgrade. The Student and Teacher Edition costs $219 new, while the Standard Edition retails for $609 new or $359 for an upgrade. Prices for the Basic Edition are available only from Microsoft’s original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

Standalone products including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access all retail for $349 and upgrade for $159. Outlook costs $159, and there is no upgrade price.

FrontPage costs $295 or $159 to upgrade, while InfoPath and OneNote cost $299.

Microsoft also released Exchange Server 2003 Tuesday, and last week released Visual Studio Tools for Office, which will allow users to customize Office applications for their own useage. [Please see: Microsoft launches Visual Studio Developer Tools for Office.]

Microsoft Canada is based in Mississauga, Ont. For more information visit