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IBM takes simple aim at Office

Big Blue says it has a slimmed-down alternative to Microsoft Office that it will bundle into the next version of its portal software.

IBM is preparing a slimmed-down alternative to Microsoft's ubiquitous Office suite with a set of applications that run on corporate Web servers.

The business productivity applications are comprised of word-processing, spreadsheet andco e-mail software--features that are also part of Microsoft's package. But IBM said its applications are not intended to go head-to-head with the advanced features of Office.

Instead, the company is aiming at what it says is a large percentage of people who do not use the full set of capabilities in Microsoft Office, said Larry Bowden, vice president for portal solutions and Lotus products at IBM. The applications, announced in November and due in the second quarter of this year, are for companies that need to do simple e-mail, text-editing and spreadsheet work.

However, the applications will not be sold alone. Rather, IBM will bundle them with its WebSphere portal server software.

Microsoft dominates the market for desktop productivity applications, commanding 90 percent of the corporate market, according to analysts. But a shift in the company's Office licensing terms last year has met with resistance from some customers who figure that the cost for Office will go up. Microsoft is preparing to release Office 2003, expected for release this year, with a number of advanced features for corporations.

Microsoft foe Sun Microsystems has sought to capitalize on any Microsoft Office price discontent with