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Microsoft Project heads for the office

Microsoft officials called today's (Aug. 18) release to its manufacturing division of the final code for its Project 2003 software a "milestone" in the evolution of its Office Systems suite.

The new version of Microsoft Project, the Redmond, Wash.-based software maker's venerable project management application, will be added to the next version of the Office suite of applications, officials said. Today's code release marks the beginning of the final phase of development before commercial availability of the product.

Chris Capossela, general manager of the Microsoft Project Business Unit, made the announcement during a presentation at the Silicon Valley Speaker Series at the company's Mountain View, Calif., campus.

"Customers recognize that broad adoption of project and resource management is the best way to prioritize their important initiatives and reduce costs," Capossela said.

"Microsoft Office Project 2003 is a result of listening to all the feedback from our channel partners and customers, and it provides a much easier way for people at all levels of the organization to make their projects successful."

In an environment dominated by ever-increasing complexity, project managers have become more important tools for corporate development managers.

Some observers say it's all but impossible to deliver a quality IT project on time and on budget nowadays without one. Microsoft's Project has been around for a long time as a standalone tool for managing large and complicated corporate projects. Although it will still be offered as a standalone product, the new version will be integrated with Microsoft Office Outlook 2003, Windows SharePoint Services and other Microsoft Office System programs. Capossela said the new Project efforts can help "companies simplify the steps required for team members to update their work status, and help executives monitor initiatives and align them with overall business strategies."

The management suite, which Microsoft is calling the Microsoft Office Enterprise Project Management (EPM) Solution, consists of Project Professional 2003, Project Server 2003 and Project Web Access. This last component provides browser-based access to project information.

Microsoft first disclosed plans for Project 2003 in June at the ProjectWorld Conference in Boston. That announcement came just a year after the launch of Project 2002, breaking the company's usual two-year upgrade cycle to fit the product into its Office System 2003 release cycle. Microsoft shifted gears, Capossela said, in response to customer demand. "We got lambasted with constructive feedback on what was missing in the product," he said.

The project management software, slated to ship in the fall, will be available as a standalone desktop application. Microsoft has said that it will ship the software in a server version for $1,499, in a professional version for $999, and in a standard edition for $599. Office System, Microsoft's newest version of its productivity bundle -- which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other widely used software -- is set to debut later this summer.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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