Microsoft Corp. officials said Monday that Office XP, the next version of its productivity suite, will be widely available on May 31, but users can get their hands on a trial version before that – for a fee.

The software giant in Redmond, Wash., expects some 1 million users to take advantage of the 30-day trial version, for which it will charge US$9.95. The trial version of Office XP Professional will be available on April 30.

Office XP Professional will carry price tags of $329 for upgrades from Office 97 or Office 2000, and $579 for the full version. Microsoft has added the Access database to the package, which also includes Word 2002, Excel 2002, PowerPoint 2002, and Outlook 2002. Office XP Professional Special Edition, which also includes FrontPage 2002, will cost $479.

Office XP Developer, which includes FrontPage, SharePoint Team Services, Publisher 2002, and other development tools, will cost $549 for an upgrade and $799 for the full version, company officials said.

The standard version of Office XP – with Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint – will carry an upgrade price tag of $239, with the full version costing $479.

On May 31, the suite will be available via retail channels and preinstalled by several OEMs, including Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Computer Corp., and Compaq Computer Corp. Additionally, customers who buy Office 2000 before June 30 will be eligible for a free upgrade to Office XP, Microsoft officials said.

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