The Smart Tags feature in Office XP, launched in late May, is designed to scan users' documents and add -- among other things -- links to relevant information on the Web. Windows XP and the upcoming version of Web browser Internet Explorer also will support the feature, which in the case of Explorer will result in Smart Tags appearing on Web pages.
The feature is controversial; critics have said Microsoft could bundle a bunch of Smart Tags with its software to promote its online properties. Local Microsoft subsidiaries, however, are responsible for Smart Tags in their own areas, and many U.S.-specific tags were removed from Office XP.
Microsoft's local subsidiaries partnered with third parties to develop localized Smart Tags for Office XP, and will do the same for Windows XP.
The Dutch language version of Office XP, for example, doesn't include the Smart Tags that recognize U.S. phone numbers and zip codes. Also gone is the tag that links stock ticker symbols to Microsoft's MSN MoneyCentral, said Paulus Gunterman, product manager - Office at Microsoft BV in the Netherlands.
"Those Smart Tags don't offer anything to the Dutch Office user. Local partners are designing Smart Tags that offer similar services for the Dutch market and we will offer those to our customers," he said, noting that users can always disable a Smart Tag.
For the Dutch market, Gunterman said, a Dutch mapping Web site will tag Dutch postal codes and offer a map of postal code areas at the click of the mouse. In the U.K., Microsoft Ltd. has partnered with a slew of companies to provide U.K.-specific Smart Tags.
Smart Tags appear as a thin underline under text or numbers; for example, if Smart Tags for company stocks is activated, the Smart Tags feature will underline and link ticker symbols on a Web page to other relevant information on the Web -- for instance, stock information on MSN MoneyCentral.
Microsoft denies that it sees Smart Tags as a tool to draw visitors to its Web sites.
"Microsoft isn't planning to make a lot of money on the Smart Tags or to get a lot of traffic to our Web sites. Smart Tags were designed purely to improve ease of use and to add functionality. We want to be a delivery platform for Smart Tags developed by others," said Robert Fransen, a spokesman for Microsoft in the Netherlands.
Microsoft will deliver some Smart Tags with Windows XP and they also will be activated by default in Internet Explorer, Fransen said.
"Those tags will be an example of the functionality. Third parties will develop many more Smart Tags than Microsoft can ever make," he said, adding that developing Smart Tags is free and easy to do with a software developers kit that is available for download from Microsoft's Web site for developers.
Microsoft does realize that Smart Tags changes the way Web pages are presented, but officials say Web site managers can prevent the feature from being used on their sites, "by adding one line of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) to their site," said Fransen.