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Microsoft polishes its Dashboard Web software

Microsoft today releases new technology that allows companies to build portal sites for employees to access email, company resources, and information from the Web.

Microsoft today released new technology that allows companies to build portal sites for employees to access email, company resources, and information from the Web.

Microsoft in May announced its "Digital Dashboard" initiative, allowing businesses to create customized versions of Microsoft's Outlook 2000 email software by including Web information, such as stock quotes and news, with corporate resources, such as updated internal sales data.

Today's new software releases are the first products stemming from its concept of a "Digital Dashboard," giving users one piece of software that in theory serves as a window to all their information needs.

Microsoft is one of many software makers--including start-ups like Cognos and more established firms such as Lotus Development--that are selling products to help businesses build internal and public Internet portal sites.

The Digital Dashboard Starter Kit includes sample designs for custom pages in the healthcare, insurance, and manufacturing industries and two other sample designs targeted at corporate sales or finance departments, Microsoft executives said. The starter kit, downloadable from the Web, includes a tutorial and technical paper for IS managers to learn how to use the software.

Microsoft is also adding collaboration features into Outlook 2000 and BackOffice Server 4.5 that will allow "Dashboard" users to easily work and share files and information with coworkers. BackOffice features Microsoft's database, messaging, and systems management server-based software.

With new add-on software to Outlook 2000, users can easily create public areas where they can share documents, a calendar for scheduling, and an area in which they can collaborate on projects. A new software upgrade to BackOffice lets network managers create a central area to share information.

The add-on to Outlook 2000 is can be downloaded from the Web. The update to BackOffice can be ordered from Microsoft's Web site.