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Microsoft Plans Data-Culling Feature in Office 12 Software

October 24, 2005|From Associated Press

SEATTLE — Microsoft Corp. plans to add to its Office business software suite technology for easily culling data from large corporate databases, and that could squeeze smaller, specialized competitors.

The technology, called Business Intelligence, traditionally has been used mainly by full-time analysts or other more specialized workers.

But Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft believes that more and more everyday workers might begin to use it for things like setting budgets or tracking customer satisfaction.

Chris Caren, general manager for Office Business Applications at Microsoft, said the software would be part of Office versions geared toward business users, but he would not provide specifics such as pricing.

The next version of Office, whose most popular applications are word processing and spreadsheets, is due out by the end of 2006.

Caren said the planned offering could access data from products of competitors such as Oracle Corp. and SAP. For more sophisticated ways to sort data, however, a company probably would have to use one of Microsoft's server products as well.

Business intelligence traditionally has been the domain of smaller companies such as Cognos Inc. and Business Objects. Caren acknowledged that Microsoft's move to bake such offerings directly into Office could put pressure on those companies.

"We're definitely designing Office 12 to eliminate the need for other BI technologies," Caren said.

Analyst Peter O'Kelly with Burton Group said the move probably would force those companies to come up with new ways to make money, such as providing more sophisticated financial analysis tools or even more specialized products.

O'Kelly sees Microsoft's move as part of efforts to get people to upgrade to Office 12, which will compete heavily with previous versions of the same product.

He said the move also came as Microsoft was facing increasing pressure from other competitors, such as Sun Microsystems Inc.'s OpenOffice suite.

"They need to innovate or one of their most profitable business franchises is at risk," he said.

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