Microsoft readies Ultimate Office for SOHO market

Microsoft adds a new "Ultimate" edition of Office 2007 aimed at small businesses and remote enterprise workers.

Microsoft executives often use the word "super" to describe how excited they get about new products, but the company is opting for "ultimate" as the descriptor of choice for new editions of key software releases.

Microsoft this week confirmed it has added an Office Ultimate 2007 edition to its list of Office 2007 packages. The company already had announced a new Windows Vista Ultimate edition for the next version of its client OS.

Office Ultimate 2007, which Microsoft will begin to offer through its volume licensing program at the end of the year, was not part of the original Office 2007 lineup the company announced in February. Microsoft said it developed the package, which includes nearly all of the components included in the suite's enterprise edition, to appeal to business users that work at home and small businesses that may need more than the consumer editions have to offer, but less than the full enterprise edition.

In addition to being offered through volume licensing, Office Ultimate 2007, which will cost $US679, will be available on retail shelves alongside the consumer versions of Office beginning in January 2007.

Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007 includes the following applications: Microsoft Office Word 2007, Microsoft Office Excel 2007, Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager, Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007, Microsoft Office Access 2007, Microsoft Office Publisher 2007, Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007, Microsoft Office Groove 2007 and Microsoft Office OneNote 2007.

Microsoft earlier this week released beta 2 of Office 2007, along with the second betas of both Windows Vista and the next version of Windows Server, code-named Longhorn. Since Vista and Office 2007 are scheduled to be available at the same time -- to business customers before the end of the year and consumers in January -- the company is pushing for customers to upgrade to both simultaneously.

However, Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer let it slip in Tokyo earlier this week that Vista might not make its January 2007 general release date if feedback on beta 2 is not satisfactory. He has since tried to quiet the negative response to those comments by saying that Vista is on track for a January release.

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