Vendors Line Up With New Solutions for Office 2003

Third-party developers on Tuesday will showcase a wide range of add-ons to extend Office 2003's capabilities, including conferencing solutions, secure document retention and better troubleshooting.

NEW YORK—As Microsoft Corp. prepares to release Office System 2003 here on Tuesday, its partners, technology integrators and third-party developers will announce a range of solutions that work with, or build on top of, the latest upgrade to the productivity suite.

Solutions ranging from next-generation conferencing to electronic postmark extension, from compliance with document retention regulations to technical troubleshooting without tech support, will all be announced and demonstrated at the partner pavilion at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in Time Square.

This underscores the Redmond, Wash., software titans goal with the integrated programs and services in Office System 2003—which was to address a variety of business challenges, observed Joe Eschbach, the vice president of Microsofts Information Worker Product Management Group, in an interview with eWEEK on Monday.

Here are a number of the third-party solutions slated for introduction on Tuesday:

  • On the conferencing front, MCI and Microsoft are working together to support next-generation conferencing capabilities using Session Initiation Protocol, or SIP, that enables virtual teams to meet instantaneously using multiple media such as Web, audio and videoconferencing, and instant messaging.

The two firms are conducting a trial that involves integrating Microsoft Office Phone Conference with MCIs audio-conferencing bridge network, allowing users to place multipoint conference calls on demand for real-time collaboration among dispersed workgroups.

  • For its part, BT Conferencing will announce that it is combining its reservationless audio conferencing with Web conferencing powered by Microsoft Office Live Meeting, a component of the Microsoft Office System. That offering will be marketed as a dual product with the Microsoft Office Live Meeting.
  • Fujitsu Consulting, the global consulting and services arm of Fujitsu Limited, will launch its EPMSuite, an enterprise project management solution. The suite will combine Microsoft Office Project Server 2003, with ManagementSuite, Fujitsu Consultings services and project management methodology.

This is designed to help enterprises significantly enhance their project management capabilities while reducing IT costs and increasing productivity. The solution links portfolio management and project management best practices to help enterprises achieve accelerated implementation of on-time, on-budget project delivery.

  • The U.S. Postal Service is also making available its Electronic Postmark Extension for Office, which gives users tamper detection and date-and-time stamping of electronic documents and files. The solution requires the user to digitally sign a document when applying a USPS Electronic Postmark within Microsoft Office XP and Microsoft Office 2003.

"This combination of technologies allows digital signing of Word documents using digital certificates; electronic content sealing and time-date stamping; subsequent verification of a Word documents validity, authenticity and integrity," said Nicholas Barranca, USPS vice president of product development.

  • Software developer KVS Inc. will announce Enterprise Vault for Microsoft Office System, which enables companies and government agencies to comply with the growing list of document retention regulations and recommendations imposed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the SEC, NASD and the Department of Defense.

Enterprise Vault automatically archives all unstructured content created and stored in Microsoft Office System environments, including Microsoft Exchange Server and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server.

Emails, instant messages and other business documents are moved from expensive operational stores to a more cost-effective online vault.

  • Researchers from Accenture Technology Labs will also be on hand in New York this week. Accenutures researchers have created a new pricing solution for the medical hardware industry, which allows the user to instantly extract and interact with information from internal sources via Excel using the XML functionality in Office to pull the relevant data from the correct repositories.

Kinkos Inc., working with technology integrator Avanade Inc., has also developed a set of customized Office corporate pilot solutions that will streamline the time and costs involved in managing technical support and information-sharing.

One pilot, eSupport, uses key programs within the Office System to allow branch team members to troubleshoot technical problems without the assistance of tech support personnel.

The eSupport solution, built with Visio 2003, Office InfoPath 2003 and Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003, uses an intelligent Web-based application that takes the place of a live tech support specialist and provides team members with detailed instructions for solving specific software and hardware problems.

eSupport provides Kinkos branch team members with a faster, more effective alternative to phone-based technical support, the company said.

"The learning curve on the Microsoft Office System solutions Kinkos is piloting is incredibly fast, speeding the rate of internal adoption and allowing our team members to quickly begin realizing the productivity benefits, " said Dawn Graham, the vice president of technology infrastructure at Kinkos

Kinkos is also piloting Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003, together with SharePoint Portal Server 2003. This solution provides a foundation for intranet capabilities for Kinkos Field Support Organization.

Meanwhile, Microsoft officials are also stressing the new benefits that Office System 2003 brings to Tablet PC users, including the deeper integration of ink, OneNote, and Microsoft Office Live Communications Server.

Until now, Office XP required a downloadable add-on pack that let Tablet PC users create simple ink e-mail messages and drawings in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. With integrated ink built much deeper into Office 2003 applications, users now have access to more functions and the ability to use ink as a native data type within their documents to annotate or draw, Erschbach said.

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