Office 2003 pricing, release date announced

Microsoft has completed development of its core Office System 2003 products and has released the suite to manufacturing.

Microsoft said today it has completed development of its core Office System 2003 products and released the suite to manufacturing. The company also released its price list.

The official launch event will take place Oct. 21, when products will become available to retail customers, the company said.

Pricing highlights include:

-- Microsoft Office Professional Enterprise Edition 2003 will be available only through volume licensing, so prices are not quoted. Office Professional Edition 2003 will retail for $499, with an upgrade price of $329. Office Small Business Edition is $499, with an upgrade price of $279.

-- Office Standard Edition 2003 costs $399, with an upgrade price of $239. Office Basic Edition 2003 is only available through OEMs, so prices are not quoted.

-- Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 will cost $5,619 and come with five client-access licenses.

-- Office Live Communications Server 2003 costs $929 plus $34.95 per CAL. There is no upgrade available.

-- Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Standard Edition is $699. Exchange Server 2003 Enterprise Edition is $3,999.

Analysts said the prices are consistent with past pricing, but the fact that this is a major release makes paying the big price tag a better value. "Before, you might get what you thought was a point release, but the price might be high," said Dana Gardner, an analyst at the Yankee Group, a Boston market research firm. "In this case, the big price makes more value sense."

Gardner said the good news for customers today is that the client and the back end are now coordinated and managed, but you need to upgrade to both to get the benefits.

For all the new features, there is still the question of how eager customers will be to spend resources on what could be a fairly comprehensive software rollout.

Matt Krieger, director of infrastructure architecture at the Reader's Digest Association Inc., Pleasantville, N.Y., said that even though his company can upgrade from Office 2000 to Office 2003 as part of its Software Assurance contract, he's not sure they will do so quickly.

"My gut is that the only way we'd deploy Office 2003 en masse is if we were doing a huge hardware refresh," Krieger said. "And I'd have to ask, 'Why?' We have a mature software development strategy, and this is still a big deal."

Krieger said his company is still keeping its options open by looking at desktop products such as Sun Microsystems Inc.'s StarOffice. "It's something to consider," he said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Article:Online retailers early with Office 2003 details

Article:Final version of Office 2003 near

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