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Microsoft to revamp portal software

The software kingpin is updating its SharePoint Portal Server software to support the company's overarching .Net strategy to move computing to the Web.

Microsoft plans to announce on Monday revamped software that could make it easier for businesses to build portal Web sites.

The software kingpin is updating its SharePoint Portal Server software to support the company's overarching .Net strategy to move computing to the Web. The updated software, slated for availability in the middle of next year, will allow nontechnical employees to build corporate portals on their own without the help of software developers, said Jeff Teper, Microsoft's SharePoint general manager.

Microsoft competes with BEA Systems, IBM, Oracle, Sybase, Sun Microsystems and others that sell software that permits businesses to give employees a central Web site to access their e-mail, calendars and corporate resources, such as internal sales data, as well as news and information on the Web. SharePoint is part of Microsoft's family of .Net e-business infrastructure software products, which includes the SQL Server 2000 database.

Microsoft plans to integrate portions of its existing portal software into future versions of the Windows server operating system, Teper said. The portal technology to be added into Windows contains Web Parts, which are small elements of information--such as e-mail, news and sales forecast reports--that can be combined into a portal site. More specifically, the Web Parts technology will be built into the .Net Framework, which automates many development tasks. The .Net Framework is technology being built into Windows.

Microsoft's new portal software strategy will allow different departments within a corporation to easily build individual portal sites for their needs by pointing and clicking on a Web browser, he said. In the past, software programmers would have had the time-consuming task of building the portal sites.

The SharePoint portal server-software will continue to exist as a standalone product, but will work in conjunction with the portal technology to be added into Windows, Teper said. For example, as part of future versions of the portal software and Windows, Microsoft will build in software that allows businesses to set up central areas for employees to collaborate on projects, share information and manage their documents.

The standalone SharePoint Portal Server will include search engine capabilities and offer the ability to integrate with a company's business applications software.

For example, sales managers could create a portal for their sales force and customize it by picking the information they want displayed, such as customer service information or internal sales data by region. The portal could also include a messaging area, where people could communicate and share ideas, Teper said.

In other news, Microsoft earlier this month released a new version of its Project software, which allows businesses to plan and administer projects.