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Amazon checks into Microsoft's Office

The online retailer announces plans for Web services that will tie into the XML capabilities of the software giant's new productivity software version.

Microsoft announced a partnership Tuesday with retail giant Amazon.com under which the software giant will add links to Amazon services within its new Office applications.

Amazon.com Research Service for Microsoft Office System will be a free download available through the Office Marketplace, a clearinghouse for third-party services and applications that tap into new Extensible Markup Language (XML) capabilities in the upcoming update of Office. Office 2003 and other applications within the newly designated Office System are set to go on sale next week.

The Amazon tools will let Office users access Amazon information from within an Office document, using the research pane that's included in most applications. A writer who's typing a bibliography in a Word document, for example, could click on the name of a book to get catalog information or cover art from Amazon.

Microsoft is making a major effort to encourage partners to build online services that exploit the new Office's XML capabilities, as service providers see Office as a familiar interface that will encourage greater consumption of Web services.

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Early backers include Factiva, a Dow Jones-owned online research service, and online payment services from eBay's PayPal.

"Amazon.com is breaking new ground in its use of XML-enabled Web services that connect data from disparate systems, allow greater access to content and create a more valuable experience for Web users," Gytis Barzdukas, director of Office product management at Microsoft, said in a statement.

"By using the advancements of the Microsoft Office System, Microsoft and Amazon.com are transforming the desktop into a dynamic interface for Office customers everywhere," he said.