Office XP and Outlook 2002 change the picture for Outlook deployment throughout the enterprise in two major ways. First, you can't use a retail copy of Office XP or Outlook 2002 to create an administrative installation point. Second, whether you must pay for Outlook 2002 depends on the Exchange Server version you have deployed.

A client access license (CAL) for Exchange 2000 entitles you to install Outlook 2002 or any earlier version on the client. However, a CAL for Exchange 5.5 lets you install only Outlook 2000 or an earlier version, not Outlook 2002. If you want to install Outlook 2002 for use with Exchange 5.5, you must purchase Office XP or Outlook 2002.

Administrators have long used the setup /a command to configure a network installation point from which all users can install Office or Outlook with company-prescribed settings. The /a switch doesn't work on retail copies of Office XP, a reflection of the new activation scheme intended to combat software piracy. Each retail copy supports activation on two machines—say, a desktop and a laptop. But, as guest Exchange and Outlook UPDATE editor Tony Redmond wrote last month, the activation scheme can reduce Office XP to a read-only configuration if you swap hardware components.

To perform an administrative installation of Office XP, you need the enterprise version of the software, not the retail version. A key advantage of the enterprise edition? The volume license key that you supply during setup configures the product so that users need not go through the activation process, as the retail product requires.

The three enterprise Office XP suites are available only through Microsoft's Open, Select, and Enterprise volume-licensing programs. Office XP Standard includes Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. Office XP Professional includes everything in the Standard suite, plus Access. The third suite is Office XP Professional with FrontPage. Alternatively, you can wait for the Exchange 2000 Service Pack 1 (SP1) CD-ROM, which will include Outlook 2002, presumably with support for administrative installations that don't require end-user activation.

While you're considering your deployment options, carefully study the changes in the volume-licensing programs, set to debut in October. Microsoft is phasing out its four existing upgrade paths (including upgrades from competing non-Microsoft products) for volume customers and replacing them with a single upgrade program called Software Assurance (SA). SA customers pay an additional fee for the right to upgrade to the current version of the product for the term of the agreement. For small businesses in the Open License program, SA isn't a good value unless you upgrade frequently—it lasts only 2 years and apparently can't be renewed. Select and Enterprise customers, on the other hand, can renew SA.

The Gartner research group recently analyzed Microsoft's new license offerings and costs and concluded that you can break even with SA if you upgrade to new versions in 3 to 4 years. The possible catch is that to participate in SA, organizations must be running the current version of each product, in this case Office XP. Gartner analysts believe this requirement will persuade many companies to accelerate moving to Office XP in preparation for the new licensing scheme.

Other volume licensing changes include a secure online site for managing licenses. Also, customers with more than 250 desktops can choose to lease software by subscription rather than purchase licenses.

Check the following Web sites for more information on enterprise versions of Office XP, product activation, and the new Microsoft licensing programs.

http://www3.gartner.com/DisplayDocument?id=330020&acsFlg=accessBought
http://www.microsoft.com/Office/ORK/xp/JOURN/Q&A_0001.htm
http://www.microsoft.com/business/licensing/volume/product_keys.asp
http://www.microsoft.com/office/howtobuy/volupgrading.htm
http://www.microsoft.com/business/licensing/assurance/default.asp