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Microsoft Announces Features of Office 2007

Microsoft Corp. is pushing a host of additional products along with the next version of its business software suite, dubbed Office 2007, including specialized tools to help employees work together even if they are thousands of miles apart.

The various versions of the Office 2007 suite, due out in late 2006, will cost about the same as the previous edition, Office 2003, which retails for $149 to $499.

Microsoft does not release prices for versions it sells directly to businesses through licensing agreements or through computer makers.

Microsoft also is adding a new, higher-end version of the suite aimed at businesses that need sophisticated ways to collaborate.

Also, the Redmond company is renaming its lower-cost Student and Teacher edition Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, and removing the restriction that it only be purchased by students, educators and their families.

That product will no longer include the Outlook e-mail application, said Parri Munsell, a Microsoft group program manager focused on licensing and pricing, because feedback showed more consumers going online for e-mail.

Instead, it will include a note-taking application called OneNote along with Word, the PowerPoint presentation software and Excel spreadsheet.

In addition, Microsoft will release some new and updated desktop and server software aimed at helping businesses with specialized tasks such as managing forms.

In all, Microsoft is offering seven versions of the software suite, plus more than two dozen options for either buying suite products individually or purchasing complementary products.

One focus is updated offerings based on technology from Groove Networks, which Microsoft bought in March 2005. Groove products help far-flung business people collaborate, and are popular in part because a user doesn't always need to be online for them to work.

Munsell said Microsoft's efforts to sell a wider variety of products come as businesses shift focus from individuals working on their own computer to the increasing importance of being able to work with others all over the world.

Microsoft also is battling market saturation for the popular Office suite, and facing nascent competition from online offerings that also let people do tasks such as word processing.

The Microsoft division that includes Office is lucrative for Microsoft, earning $2.1 billion on revenue of $2.98 billion in the most recent quarter.