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New Microsoft Office for netbooks planned

Unique version designed for mini laptops

A tweaked version of Microsoft Office for netbooks could be in the works after the software giant revealed it is developing packages that are unique to that market.

Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's business division, said at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference that the Wave 14 of Office products would incorporate netbooks into its overall product plans.

"I won't get precise with details, but I think we can do better with netbook attach," said Elop, a member of CEO Steve Ballmer's executive leadership team.

"There are new ways to package and monetise SKUs that are unique to the netbook market. From the Office perspective if someone is spending just a few hundred dollars on a netbook, how much will they spend on productivity software?"

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Elop didn't provide an answer to his questions, but he gave an example of how Microsoft has priced Office for various consumers, such as students.

With the flat PC market, netbooks have become a hot area of interest for Microsoft, which says that Windows is now on 80 percent of netbooks. The company is planning to offer a Windows 7 version for netbooks.

And last week Ballmer told financial analysts, "We need to carefully think through what kind of pricing and value we put in netbook-specific SKUs versus full PC consumer SKUs, versus the business SKU. That's important to us."

In the Office 14 wave of products Microsoft plans to release web-based versions of Office productivity applications, specifically Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

Microsoft, however, did say in October that the web-based Office tools would not have an offline mode. Microsoft currently has lightweight 'read-only' tools for Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Users could potentially have versions of documents stored on their netbooks and use the tools to read those documents. Microsoft would have to add editing capabilities to the read-only tools, however, to make the web-based Office applications compelling for business users.

Network World


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