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Microsoft to open Office doors early

The computing titan says it will allow some of its business customers to download its new Office desktop application bundle about two weeks sooner than originally planned.

Microsoft said Friday that it would allow some of its business customers to download its new Office desktop application bundle about two weeks sooner than originally planned.

The software giant said Office 2003 and Microsoft OneNote applications would be released Monday, to those signed up for its Enterprise Agreement and Software Assurance licensing plans. The company will also allow subscribers to the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) to download the software.

Office 2003 and OneNote are parts of the company's Office System family of software, an umbrella marketing name for its business productivity software, which includes Office 2003, Visio, InfoPath, SharePoint Portal Server, Live Communications Server and other products.

As previously reported, Microsoft will sell the standard edition of Office 2003 for $399, the professional version for $499, and the student/teacher version for $149.

The Office 2003 bundle includes the 2003 versions of Microsoft's Word, Excel, PowerPoint, InfoPath, Access, Publisher and Outlook applications.

Microsoft is hailing its revamped Office suite as a major transition. Most notably, Office will support XML (Extensible Markup Language), which lets applications communicate with back-end business systems and Web services. Microsoft hopes XML support will convince businesses to upgrade to Office 2003.

Microsoft will formally launch Office System at an event in New York on Oct. 21.

News.com's David Becker contributed to this report