Microsoft readies first Office System service pack

Users of Microsoft Corp.’s Office System products released in October can expect the first service pack for the software in late June, Microsoft said Friday.

Service Pack 1 (SP1) will apply to InfoPath 2003, OneNote 2003, Project 2003, Publisher 2003, Visio 2003 and SharePoint Portal Server and Windows SharePoint Services, as well as the Microsoft Office 2003 suite, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, a Microsoft spokesperson said.

Microsoft typically delivers a first service pack between six and nine months after it brings a product to market. Service packs typically roll together all product updates and bug fixes issued so far. Occasionally, Microsoft will use a service pack to add functionality. The vendor wouldn’t discuss technical details of Service Pack 1, saying it is too early.

Since its release in October, Office 2003’s retail sales and the number of volume buyers who bought the rights to install the software is approximately double the number reached by Office XP in the first months after its release, according to Microsoft.

The service pack might spark more sales or installations, as many businesses tend to wait until the first bundle of updates before using a product. However, Ken Smiley, an independent analyst in Kansas City, does not see Office System SP1 as a major release.

“There haven’t been a whole bunch of problems with Office 2003; for the most part it has been pretty solid and well received. Service Pack 1 is not something that, as far as I know, is going to fix some huge, gaping security hole,” he said.

Office 2003 went through what Microsoft called its largest beta test ever, including a “refresh” of the second beta to squash more bugs. The refresh pushed back the Office 2003 release, but Microsoft said it would add to the product’s stability, making the first release comparable to a product with the first service pack installed.

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