Microsoft rolls out Office 97

Microsoft boss Bill Gates has used a keynote address at Comdex to announce the release of Office 97 to manufacturing.

Microsoft has released to manufacturing its Office 97 personal productivity suite, with chairman and CEO Bill Gates touting its Internet integration and natural-language capabilities.

The suite includes Microsoft's Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook applications, with integrated email, scheduling and access to documents. The software, which will be available in US stores in the middle of January, automatically underlines words that may be misspelled by using a natural-language inferance engine.

"It's the first time technology from our research group is in a shipping product," Gates said in a presentation yesterday at Comdex.

Microsoft plans to bring the language capabilities to every language version of the software, Gates says.

The autocorrect for misspellings feature is in all the Office 97 applications, in about 30 languages, Microsoft officials say. The grammar checker in Microsoft Word will be in English, German and French versions.

Gates also demonstrated the Internet connectivity, which allows users to create live links to Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) documents in the applications and to publish Web documents on intranet servers.

Pricing is as follows: Office 97, Standard Edition, will sell for a retail price of $895 ex GST, upgrade $379 ex GST. For Office 97 Professional Edition, the price will be $1079 ex GST, with upgrades costing $559 ex GST.

Microsoft has also showcased certified Office 97 compatible applications. A compatible application follows the interface conventions and offers data compatibility with Office 97.

According to Michael Graff, group product manager for Microsoft Office, there are about 150 applications certified compatible with Office 95. Microsoft hopes to have 50 to 75 certified compatible with Office 97 over the next six months and 150 within a year, Graff says.

Microsoft is one the Web at http://www.microsoft.com.

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