The world's largest software manufacturer Microsoft launches an updated version of its Office software to consumers in 240 countries, with new tools aimed at helping professionals cope with information overload.
Introducing Office 2010. Microsoft's signature product for business professionals may not whip up the same kind of hoopla as its games division, but the software toolkit that comes with popular applications such as Word, Excel, Outlook and Powerpoint is both hugely dominant in the market, and immensely profitable.
The updated suite of software has been available for enterprise customers since mid-May, and is now being released to consumers in 240 countries.
Microsoft spokeman Jacob Jaffe sees it as being a breakthrough release.
"It's the biggest release we've had for consumers and that's because a couple of different things. Not just because of the improvements we've made within the software itself. Powerpoint, video capabilities, being able to broadcast. It's also how we're trying to enable productivity across the PC, phone and the browser."
Here are some of the key features. Office nows allows for users to edit videos for use in Powerpoint presentations.. One note is a kind of digital scrap book that allows many people to work with the same information through web-based cloud computing. And Outlook has new tools to allow users to manage email conversations, or potentially even ignore them.
" How many times have you been part of an email thread and you're like 'just get me off, it's too much'. Well, we effectively have a mute button for your inbox. I click on ignore and the conversation goes away and any future mails go away, they're taken away from me and I can just focus on the stuff I need to get down."
The new Office builds upon insights provided by Microsoft's Research Centre in Cambridge where Richard Harper has been writing a book about information overload.
SOUNDBITE: What we're trying to say in research is to design tools so people can make their own decisions so if they want to be in touch all day, let them. If they want to say no, let them. Technology should not inhibit him them either way."
And on that point Office also features something called Social Connector for outlook - allowing people to connect with friends on social networks such as MySpace and LinkedIn without clicking away from its email application.
By helping professionals set and control the terms of engagement through this new Office product, Microsoft is hoping to open a door to an even wider - more consumer friendly - market.
Matt Cowan, Reuters