It’s official: Office 12 to become Office 2007

Microsoft Corp. is set to unveil on Thursday its long-awaited branding, packaging and pricing for the next version of Office, which is expected to be available later this year.

As widely expected, the product, code-named Office 12, will be branded Office 2007. And while neither retail nor business customers should see much of a difference in pricing, the company has made some packaging and branding changes, particularly to the Office suites that business customers typically buy, said Parri Munsell, an Information Worker group program manager at Microsoft.

The changes reflect Microsoft’s aim to make Office more of a collaboration suite that connects employees throughout the organization than a set of productivity applications that each employee uses, he said.

There will be seven Office suites in the 2007 Microsoft Office System, including one new enterprise package, Office Enterprise 2007, as well as two packages that have been rebranded. Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2007 will be comparable to the former Office Professional Enterprise Edition 2003, while Office Home and Student 2007 is an update of the former Office Student Teacher 2003, Munsell said.

Suites rounding out Office 2007 are Office Professional 2007, Office Small Business 2007, Office Standard 2007 and Office Basic 2007.

Professional Plus is the suite that most corporate, or “volume,” customers will use, Munsell said. In addition to the applications currently available in Office — such as Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook — this suite for the first time will also include Office Communicator, Microsoft’s corporate instant-messaging application, he said.

The new Enterprise 2007 offers all of what is included in Professional Plus, as well as Office Groove 2007 peer-to-peer collaboration technology and Office OneNote 2007, software for typing notes and recording speech simultaneously.

Both Professional Plus and Enterprise 2007 are available only through Microsoft’s volume licensing program, for which the company does not provide specific pricing because it varies by customer, Munsell said.

To help companies purchase some of the new licenses that will be required to use Office 2007’s collaboration capabilities, Microsoft will offer a new Enterprise Client Access License (CAL).

The new CAL includes all the licenses under its current Core CAL together with licenses for products such as Live Communications Server and Windows Rights Management Services, he said. Microsoft’s Core CAL already includes licenses for Windows, Exchange and Office.

Microsoft also will add new server software to the Office family. The company will combine its portal and content management servers into one server called Office SharePoint Server 2007.

In addition, the company will offer Office Forms Server 2007 to enable Office users to publish forms to a server as an alternative to purchasing SharePoint Server and all of its portal and content-management technology, he said. Users of the volume versions of Office can take electronic forms and Excel spreadsheets and publish them to either Forms Server or SharePoint Portal Server without having an additional InfoPath Server locally installed, which was previously required.

Another new offering, Office Project Portfolio Server, complements the existing Office Project Server by giving users a view of the entire lifecycle of multiple projects rather than just the ability to execute one project.

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