MS Office Interconnect Beta Manages Contacts, Digital Business Cards

The new product, coming to Japan in the fall as part of Microsoft's move to offer market-specific Office products, gives users a unique, electronic business card that can be secured and delivered.

REDMOND, Wash.—As Microsoft looks at offering tailored, market-specific Office System products, this fall it will release in Japan a new product called Microsoft Office Interconnect, currently under beta testing, that is essentially a contact manager.

The product allows users to have a unique, electronic business card that can be mailed around, secured with digital signatures and allowed to travel among the users contacts, colleagues and connections.

When the users personal data changes, the new information can be electronically updated in a secure, peer-to-peer type of system, Steven Sinofsky, Microsofts senior vice president for Office, told analysts and the media here Thursday.

Giving his annual address at the financial analyst day at the Redmond campus, Sinofsky said the Office System faces more challenges now than ever. As products and technologies in the Office family have increased, the number of competitors has gone up proportionately, he said.

Oddly enough, Sinofsky said the greatest competitive challenge to the product going forward is high customer satisfaction with it. Many Office users are happy with their existing products and so are reluctant to upgrade, he said.

"In order to address that issue, we looked to develop new and exciting and unusual products like OneNote, which were designed to reach and excite those users," he said. "We are also adding deep, new features and functionality into the product to make it compelling."

/zimages/6/28571.gifMicrosoft Corp. recently released the first service pack for Office 2003. Click here to read more.

Calling the software included in and built around Microsoft Office the broadest and deepest so far, Sinofsky said it represents a major shift in the companys strategy for developing Office products.

"We now think about this as programs, servers and services that wrap around and integrate all of this together, so as to round out a broad picture of software that all works together," Sinofsky said.

Microsoft cant expand the Office Systems reach alone, he said, adding that many partners are helping promote the more than 2,300 Office solutions.

Disputing the notion that Microsoft is struggling to get its enterprise customers to renew their enterprise agreements, Sinofsky said licenses in fiscal year 2004 came in as 40 percent annuity, 40 percent license-only customers and 20 percent OEMs, which was consistent with its recent historical mix, he said, adding that annuity customers continue to renew at historic rates.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about users complaints about their Software Assurance licenses.

Looking forward, he said Office will employ the technologies found in Longhorn, the next version of Windows due in late 2005. Sinofsky said the Office team also is investing in a core set of productivity improvements such as Trustworthy Computing, document collaboration, enterprise portal/team collaboration, real-time communication, and the expansion of tools around business information reporting and analysis.

"We are very excited about Office 2003 and, moving forward, we will significantly enhance our product and connection to customers," Sinofsky said.

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