In response to what it claims is "popular demand", Microsoft has introduced a standalone version of its contacts and email package, Outlook, the company announced on Wednesday.
Outlook is used by companies large and small for managing everything from addresses to personal and public contacts, but the application is generally used as part of a corporate network in conjuction with the Exchange server product. Now, Microsoft thinks many people would like to use the same tool at home that they find so indipensable at work.
According to Takeshi Numoto, general manager of Microsoft Office 2007: "Currently, many small and home-based businesses keep their contacts in several different places — some in [their address books], some in spreadsheets. We understand the importance of good customer management and are providing simple and affordable solutions to help small businesses centralise their customer information."
But users in the UK and around Europe will have to wait a while. Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 is only available at present in the US where it will retail for around $149.95 (£77). Microsoft has yet to announce a version with UK or Euro pricing. "The policy is to give the price in the US but not the UK; this pricing has not yet been fixed," said a spokesperson.
Office Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager, as the product will be known, should make it easier for people in small businesses to track sales and marketing activities in one place, the company said. It is generally sold as part of the Microsoft Office suite with Powerpoint, Excel and Word, but the standalone version may appeal to those who would like to use different kinds of applications. This may also find a market of individuals who have become used to having Outlook at work and would like to easily transfer details from that system to their system at home.
In the past, Microsoft has offered a cut-down version of Outlook, known as Outlook Express, pre-installed on most new Windows PCs. In 2003 Microsoft claimed that it would no longer be developing Outlook Express but then backtracked. Windows Vista comes bundled with an email client known as Windows Mail, seen as the successor to Outlook Express and aimed at home users.