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Microsoft mistakenly posts product information on Web site

The company inadvertently discloses details about important new features concerning its upcoming Macintosh Office upgrade.

    Microsoft inadvertently posted on a Web site today information about its upcoming Macintosh Office upgrade, including details about important new features.

    An animated notice appearing on Microsoft's Mactopia Web site, which promotes the new version of Macintosh Office, contained more information than the software maker meant to disclose.

    A Microsoft representative acknowledged it "was an unfortunate error" and that the information "had gotten out prematurely."

    Some of the new features would bring the Macintosh version of Office to parity with the Windows version. They include the ability to use Word for writing email drafted in Outlook Express and adding more robust editing features such as grammar checking. Spell checking would be available using a Mac version of World Encarta Dictionary, which would be a notable enhancement. Microsoft previously had stopped developing an extended dictionary for the Mac with Bookshelf 98.

    Microsoft also plans to include a personal information manager (PIM) for managing time, tasks and contacts in the new Office. The Redmond, Wash.-based software maker has offered its Outlook PIM with the Windows version of Office since 1997.

    While the posted information did not specifically refer to Outlook as the PIM, Microsoft offers a Mac version of Outlook that works with Exchange Server, making such an assumption not unreasonable.

    The inclusion of a PIM might not sit well with Chronos, PowerOn Software and other developers of PIMs for the Mac. The number of PIMs available on Windows diminished following the inclusion of Outlook with Office, which Microsoft added for free. But a Mac Outlook client potentially would make sharing contact data and schedules with Windows users much easier.

    The next version of Office Macintosh is not due for release until the second half of the year. The Microsoft representative said the software maker had not finalized a name, but that "it's not Office 2000." Microsoft in the past has used different naming conventions for the Windows and Macintosh Office versions. The most recent Windows versions are Office 2000 and Office 97, and Office 98 on the Mac.

    Microsoft has since posted a corrected teaser for the Mac Office upgrade, which could be announced next week: "Your life will never be the same. Check back soon for a sneak peak of the next version of Microsoft Office."