ThinkFree readies MS-compatible office suite

ThinkFree.com Corp. on Monday plans to unveil ThinkFree Offfice 2.0, a server-based office productivity suite featuring Microsoft Office-compatible word processing, spreadsheet and presentation graphics programs.

The suite, to be available in the March 2002 timeframe, is loaded onto a Unix or Linux server and can be accessed from Windows clients. Subsequent clients for Apple and Unix are planned, as is a server version for Windows NT.

Included in the suite are Write, a Microsoft Word-compatible word processor and HTML (HyperText Markup Language) editor; Calc, an Excel-compatible spreadsheet, and Show, a PowerPoint-compatible presentation graphics program.

"Part of the benefit is you can use it from anywhere," enabling, for example, a user to download his copy of the application from home over the Internet, said Steven Croft, vice president of sales and marketing at Cupertino, California-based ThinkFree.

An analyst, however, said ThinkFree needs to do more than just provide a Web-accessible version of Microsoft Corp.-compatible applications to succeed.

"If you're gong to provide a productivity solution that's going to be competitive or more useful to somebody than the majority guy [Microsoft] out there, what you've got to do is you've got to do something different," said analyst Chris LeTocq, industry strategist at Sage Circle, in Los Altos, California. Microsoft already is planning Web-accessible applications through its .NET initiative, LeTocq noted.

ThinkFree should focus on providing functions such as application capabilities for inclusion in portals, LeTocq said.

ThinkFree Office 2.0 enables users to share and collaborate on documents via the use of a public folder to which friends and colleagues can connect, ThinkFree said.

Other new features include:

- Support for locally available system fonts.

- Support for webDAV drive access, for Internet-based file storage.

- Support for animation in Show and PowerPoint documents- Enhanced font and graphics effects.

- Improved printing and increased calculation speed.

- A customizable clipart library.

- Direct access to Web pages via hyperlinks.

The beta version of ThinkFree Office 2.0 is available now for users with an active subscription to ThinkFree Office, which costs US$49.95 per user per year. Active users will receive the upgrade as part of their subscription package. Multi-user licenses also will be available.

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