Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates will be in New York today to oversee the launch of Microsoft Office 2003, part of the new Microsoft Office System, which the company describes as a system of productivity programs, servers, services, and solutions. The event's theme, "Great Moments at Work," hints at the new product's new collaboration features and its integration with a range of business-based applications, servers, and services. Unlike earlier versions of the product, Office 2003 doesn't heap massive lists of new features on users. Instead, it helps people be more productive, whether they're working alone, with a small group of people, or collaborating remotely with people around the globe.
   "The new Office System is a major leap forward for information workers," Gates said. "It makes information work more productive--and more profitable--by offering innovative new ways to communicate, to find and share information, and to manage complex projects."
   Microsoft will bolster Office 2003 with a $150 million ad campaign designed to raise awareness of the product and convince several hundred million Office customers to upgrade. "The number-one competitive challenge for us is the satisfaction that people have in our installed base--the fact that they feel that what they have is working," said Jeff Raikes, group vice president of Productivity and Business Services.
   One allure of the new Office System is that developers can use the new Visual Studio Tools for the Microsoft Office System to create solutions for Microsoft Office Word 2003 and Microsoft Office Excel 2003. Hundreds of partners have already developed several hundred applications that run on Office 2003, the most ever for any Office version.
   Office 2003 ships in editions that are designed for students, consumers, and other individuals; small businesses; and large enterprises. To find out more about Office 2003, see my review, which will be available later today on the SuperSite for Windows.