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===============

In the News

- Microsoft Releases Office 2003 SP1
- Microsoft, EU Head to Court in September

==== In the News ====

by Paul Thurrott, thurrott@winnetmag.com

Microsoft Releases Office 2003 SP1

Today, Microsoft unleashed its first major collection of Microsoft Office 2003 changes--Office 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1). Like most of the company's service packs, Office 2003 SP1 includes bug and security fixes that the company has discovered since it first released the product last fall. But Office 2003 SP1 also includes major functional changes to the Office suite's newest members, Microsoft Office InfoPath 2003 and Microsoft Office OneNote 2003, which the company has essentially updated to major new versions.
"Thanks to our customer feedback and connection tools, we've made huge strides with the Microsoft Office System in continuing to improve product reliability through each successive release," Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president of Microsoft Office, said. "At the launch in October, customers were already experiencing an increase in the average time between product errors by seven times over the first beta release. But we didn't stop there. With SP1, we've improved product reliability even further by taking action on the top issues affecting product performance."
The SP1 release updates InfoPath, an integrated Office application, with new tools that make creating new InfoPath-based solutions easier for developers. The product also includes improved support for digital signatures, email-based forms transmission, and Tablet PCs. Even more significantly enhanced is OneNote, which is a member of the Office System family of products but isn't included with any of the Office bundles; my experience with the beta version suggests that the company has essentially updated this product to version 2.0. OneNote includes almost too many improvements to list; I'll cover the changes in an upcoming review on the SuperSite for Windows (see the first URL below).
Office 2003 SP1 includes several other changes. Microsoft Office Outlook 2003's junk mail controls now feature more intelligent filtering and easier, more automated modifications to users' Safe Senders lists. And a new Microsoft Office Access 2003 Conversion Toolkit helps customers convert their existing Access databases to the new Access database format. The download doesn't appear to be available as I write this but will be made available soon on the Microsoft Web site.
One interesting note about Office 2003: Unlike many Microsoft products, Office hasn't suffered from interminable security flaws or other bugs. Microsoft credits the product's success to the online crash-reporting tool that the company has shipped with the past few Office releases. According to the company, this interactive tool has let Microsoft developers concentrate on the few problems that plague most users, dramatically improving the product's overall fit and finish.
If you want to download Office 2003 SP1, visit the Office 2003 SP1 Web site (see the second URL below). You can also download the product updates through the Microsoft Office Online Office Update site (see the third URL below).

SuperSite for Windows

http://www.winsupersite.com

Office 2003 Service Pack 1

http://www.microsoft.com/office/editions/prodinfo/sp1.mspx

Microsoft Office Online

http://www.officeupdate.com

Microsoft, EU Head to Court in September

Oral arguments in Microsoft's first court date with the European Union (EU) will begin September 30, according to Bo Vesterdorf, president of the European Court of First Instance. The arguments, which will last 2 days, will concentrate on Microsoft's request to suspend its penalties while the company prepares an appeal of the EU's antitrust decision.
In March, the EU found Microsoft guilty of abusing its Windows monopoly by harming competitors in the media-player and server markets. The EU ordered the company to ship a version of Windows that didn't include Windows Media Player (WMP) and to supply its server competitors with more interoperability-based technical information. The EU also fined Microsoft about $612 million.
The EU originally required that Microsoft meet the decision's requirements by late June but the European Court of First Instance granted the company a short reprieve so that Microsoft could present its arguments for delaying the penalties until the appeal is finalized. Vesterdorf will decide how the case proceeds. "The remedies as currently proposed by the commission would hurt consumers, the industry, and Microsoft," a Microsoft spokesperson said yesterday, noting that the company has a "strong case." A short look at Vesterdorf's record might indicate otherwise, however. According to court records, he has granted relief in only 8 of 50 cases in the past 3 years.
Regardless of the outcome of these arguments, Microsoft will still have to face Vesterdorf and several other European judges, who will decide the substance of Microsoft's appeal. That appeal could take as long as 5 years, according to legal experts.

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