Microsoft Unveils Plans For Office, Tablet PC

Jun 25, 2002 (08:06 PM EDT)

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Microsoft let slip some of its plans for its next version of Office Tuesday at the TechXNY show while officially unveiling its Tablet PC platform--a next-generation personal computer that resembles an Etch A Sketch and responds to input from a stylus.

During a keynote at the computer trade show, Microsoft group VP for productivity and services Jeff Raikes noted that Office 11--due by the middle of next year, he said--will feature built-in support for XML to help knowledge workers more easily aggregate data from numerous sources into applications like Excel.

Raikes also showed off Tablet PC and said hardware vendors Acer, Fujitsu, and Toshiba will ship their versions of the product on Nov. 7. The devices use a modified version of the Windows operating system to achieve pen-based compatibility.

While the news confirms plans that Microsoft has been circulating for the past several months, it's hardly groundbreaking. The company already offers a plug-in through which XML compatibility can be added to Office, and it has demonstrated Tablet PC at numerous industry events this year.

However, Raikes' comments make clear the fact that Microsoft hopes to increase its share of the enterprise software market in part by making it easier for workers to tap data anytime, anywhere. Raikes said Microsoft needs to appeal to the increasing number of mobile workers and "corridor workers" who can't be chained to a desktop.

The plan appears to be working. To date, Microsoft has sold about 60 million Office XP licenses, more than doubling sales for Office 2000.