Office 2000 to ship next year

Microsoft executives expect to ship Office 2000 in the first quarter of next year, months after analysts expected it to hit shelves.

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Microsoft executives today said they expect to ship Office 2000, a new version of the company's business application suite, in the first quarter of next year, months after analysts expected it to hit shelves.

Originally, both technology and Wall Street analysts had expected the popular desktop application suite this fall. Some even targeted the release of the Office upgrade as early as October.

"They originally attempted to set the release of Office with [Windows NT 5], but that was wishful thinking," said DataQuest analyst Chris LeTocq.

Microsoft is integrating Office 2000 server-side management tools with Windows NT 5.0.

Someday--the exact date is still in flux--Microsoft promises that users will have a full-fledged version of NT 5.0 Workstation and Server in their hands, replete with improvements in directory services, manageability, data access, file systems, and other key areas.

Office 2000 is a radical departure from previous releases. Microsoft will recast Office as a series of application components, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook, which can be distributed and managed from a central server and will include closer ties to Microsoft's Internet Information Server Web server software and NT 5.0.

It is more likely the applications suite will ship in January, which would coincide with the company's typical two-year product refresh cycle, said Matthew Price, an Office product manager.

"We haven't announced a ship date. But we have said beta one will happen in July, which it did," he said.

Price did not give any reasons why there appears to be a change in the product's release schedule.

LeTocq said he always thought the shipping date has remained a bit fluid. "If they wanted to ship at the end of the year they could. They are in beta one right now, so it really doesn't make that much of a difference," he noted.

But Giga Information Group analyst Rob Enderle said he thinks Office's dependence on NT could be playing a role in the delay of the desktop suite. "NT [5's delay] could have slowed it down."

Price said Microsoft has tried to stay away from any firm date for shipping the suite, but that other executives in the company, mainly in sales, gave the impression that it would come by year's end.

"We're happy with the schedule right now. The most important thing is the best product gets in the hands of the customer," Price said.