Microsoft's Office 2007 includes licensing twists

Microsoft on Thursday unveiled its Office 2007 package that includes a collection of new applications, servers, bundles and licensing options targeted at providing users with collaboration, content management and business intelligence.

Office 2007, which was code-named Office 12, also is the coming out party for the real-time collaboration tools Microsoft acquired when it bought Groove in March 2005. The Groove offerings will include Office Groove 2007 and Office Groove Server 2007, as well as, Microsoft hosted services - Groove Enterprise Services and Office Live Groove - that provide online Groove collaboration features.

Office 2007 also reveals that Microsoft intends to ride the popularity of its SharePoint Server by making it the center point of its back-end collaboration infrastructure.

"Microsoft is emphasizing collaboration again," say Chris LeTocq, principal analyst with Guernsey Research. LeTocq says that while Groove plays a fundamental role in collaboration, SharePoint Services, a feature of the core operating system for setting up ad-hoc team sharing sites on the network, and SharePoint Server also are key pieces of software.

"SharePoint is the opportunity in Office to create a collaboration environment for groups of users. To some extent it is an unsung hero in Office 2007," says LeTocq. He says SharePoint presents an attractive collaboration option for end-users as compared to today's cumbersome e-mail threads.

Microsoft, however, also has updated SharePoint Server, which was formerly called SharePoint Portal Server. The 2007 version is tagged to become the back-end cornerstone for collaboration infrastructure, Microsoft officials said.

Microsoft says the server coupled with the two enterprise versions of Office 2007 provide the full collaboration environment including content management, routing/approval, electronic forms and search. Those two Office bundles are the new Enterprise 2007 edition and the renamed Professional Plus 2007, which is the replacement for Office Professional Enterprise Edition 2003.

"SharePoint is the mainline server that back-ends a lot of these new features," says John Carins, senior director of information worker licensing and packaging for Microsoft. He says Microsoft expects a majority of corporate users to opt for the Professional Plus edition of Office and couple it with SharePoint Server.

He said Microsoft would discontinue its Content Management Server and fold the capabilities into SharePoint Server, which also is the back-end support for document routing and approval, electronic forms capabilities and search.

"This is the nod that SharePoint is the server we are going to put a lot of the collaboration work under," says Carins.

Office 2007 also features new bundles and new applications, as well as some licensing options restricted to volume licensing customers only. One notable change is that the Home and Student edition of Office will drop Outlook in favor of including OneNote, a note-taking program.

The new licensing options for Office 2007 will give those with volume licensing contracts exclusive access to the enterprise Office bundles, Enterprise and Professional Plus.

The main difference between the two bundles is the inclusion of Office Groove in the Enterprise Edition. Both will ship with the Office Communicator client for instant messaging and real-time communications including VoIP.

Also, all the Office servers, along with the Communicator and Office Groove client software are only available under volume licensing contracts.

Another change is the new Office SharePoint Designer 2007, which will replace FrontPage 2003. The Designer is for building Web sites that incorporate SharePoint and for incorporating workflow between and among those sites.

Office 2007 also will include some new server technology among the 13 new products available in the Office 2007 product family. New are the Microsoft Office Project Portfolio Server 2007, which provides project and portfolio management, and Microsoft Office Forms Server 2007, an electronic-forms platform.

Microsoft is adding a client access license (CAL) option beyond its Core CAL. The Core CAL includes access licenses for Windows Server, Exchange Server, Office SharePoint Portal Server and Systems Management Server. A new Enterprise CAL adds enterprise data searching, spreadsheet publishing, Web-based form creation and unified messaging. The Enterprise CAL will provide access to features in Microsoft Operations Manager, Office Live Communications Server, Rights Management Services and Microsoft security software.

Also new to Office is Office Communicator Web Access, a browser-based version of the instant messaging client for the desktop.

Office 2007 is expected to ship by the end of the year, with pricing relatively unchanged over Office 2003 A Beta 2 version of Office 2007 will be made available before the middle of the year, according to Microsoft.

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