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Office to include data-culling technology

Microsoft plans to add to its Office business software suite technology for easily culling data from large corporate databases.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Microsoft Corp.'s 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, has traditionally been used mainly by full-time analysts or other more specialized workers.  But Redmond-based Microsoft believes more and more everyday workers may 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 will be part of Office versions geared toward business users, although 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 can access data from competing products such as Oracle Corp. and SAP AG. For more sophisticated ways to sort data, however, a company would likely have to use one of Microsoft's server products as well. 

(MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

Business Intelligence has traditionally been the domain of smaller companies such as Cognos Inc. and Business Objects SA. Microsoft's Caren acknowledged Friday that its 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 the Burton Group said the move will likely 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 comes as Microsoft is 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.