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Office 2003 prices leak online in U.K.

A heavy hint at the release date for Microsoft Office 2003 and its pricing in the United Kingdom have appeared online, in what appears to be an e-commerce mix-up.

Prices for Microsoft Office 2003, together with a range of other upcoming products from the company, have been released on online retailer Amazon.com's U.K. Web site.

Microsoft had been keeping a tight lid on pricing information for the new products, as well as on their launch date. The listings on Amazon.co.uk indicate that the products will be available on Oct. 24 in the United Kingdom.

An Amazon representative said the prices on the site appeared to be authorized. "We generally put pricing up as soon as we get it," the representative said.

Microsoft, however, said it has still not released pricing. At the time of writing, the Redmond, Wash. software maker said it was looking into the matter.

Microsoft had previously said only that the various components of its newly renamed Office System line of products would ship late this summer. That means Microsoft would need to have a final version of the software to ship to PC manufacturers within the next few weeks.

According to Amazon's U.K. listings--pointed out by ZDNet UK reader Jean-Claude Romanino--Microsoft Office 2003 for Windows XP, which comprises Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint, is priced at $560 (349 pounds). The professional version, which adds Outlook, Publisher and Access to the mix, costs $690. These prices are slightly above the prices that Amazon currently charges for the Office XP and Office XP Pro packages.

The price for the Standard edition for students and teachers has also risen, from $140 for Office XP, to $192 for Office 2003. Office Small Business Edition, which is the same as the Professional addition but comes without the Access database application, costs $618.

Upgrades are priced at $321 for the Standard Edition, $433 for the Professional version and $377 for the Small Business Edition.

Amazon.co.uk is also listing prices for a range of individual applications that are due out soon--again, the date given on the retail site is Oct. 24. However, despite Microsoft's stated aim to rebrand the applications so they are presented less as separate programs and more as part of an entire suite--Outlook 2003 would be called Office Outlook 2003, for instance--Amazon seems oblivious to the rebranding.

On Amazon's U.K. site, Outlook 2003 is priced at $144. Word 2003, Excel 2003 and PowerPoint 2003 each cost $321. Project 2003 is $778, and Publisher is $224, while Visio and Visio Pro cost $273 and $674 respectively. Upgrade prices for all these products are also listed. The complete list of prices, together with an option to preorder the products, is available here.

Amazon is also listing standalone pricing for two applications that are set to debut in Office 2003: InfoPath and OneNote.

InfoPath, priced at $289, is an application for organizing and sharing data. Microsoft is positioning the product, in part, as a tool to let data migrate from one application in Office to another through XML (Extensible Markup Language). With InfoPath, a sales manager could create a form where team members submit numerical data from Excel and notes from Word. The two applications would work harmoniously on the same page and allow automatic updates.

OneNote, priced at $273, is like Word but lets users write notes anywhere on the screen. It is designed for use with tablet PC hardware.

Analysts have raised concerns that many businesses will be shocked by the complexity of InfoPath, which functions differently to other Office applications and which makes more use of XML than any other Office 2003 program. They say it undercuts both Microsoft's attempt to make Office into something more than a productivity program and the company's plan to reposition Office as a "platform" for which developers can create applications, as with Windows.

ZDNet U.K.'s Matt Loney reported from London. CNET News.com's David Becker contributed to this report.

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