Expo Preview: Business and System Software

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Expo Preview: Business and System Software

Business software makers are playing one form or another of the waiting game at Macworld Expo. They're either biding their time until Apple releases OS X and they can come out with OS X-ready versions of their software. Or they're waiting to announce product news of their own--and Macworld Expo may be the venue where they spill the beans.

Take Microsoft . The software giant has already released a slew of details about its Office upgrade. We know that Office 2001 will include a new personal information manager called Entourage 2001 (and formerly known by its code name, Alpaca ). In a nutshell, Entourage combines e-mail, calendaring, contact management, and a task manager into one program.

Other new additions to Office have also been announced. Office now includes customizable document templates, centralized formatting tools on a single palette, and tighter integration with the built-in Encarta World English Dictionary feature. Other tools add built-in tools for importing graphics into Office documents and converting PowerPoint files into QuickTime movies.

About the only information Microsoft hasn't disclosed is how much Office 2001 will cost and when it will ship. It figures those questions will come up at Macworld Expo, where Microsoft plans to have its usual presence.

Business software makers also figure to face questions about OS X, the Mac's next-generation operating system. In order to take advantages of the new features in the state-of-the-art OS, applications need to be rewritten to run on OS X. If Apple releases a public beta of the OS--and that's not a given--expect the pressure to be on business software makers to announce roll-out plans for OS X-ready software.

At least one company isn't waiting for the public beta to debut. FileMaker plans to demonstrate a beta version of the OS X-ready FileMaker Pro at Macworld Expo. That puts FileMaker among the major applications -- such as Microsoft Internet Explorer and Adobe InDesign --that are running in OS X, at least in beta form.

As for other business software news, expect a heavy e-commerce presence at Macworld Expo. The stock market may have dealt a swift blow to the dotcoms this spring, but that's not stopping a gaggle of application service providers from setting up shop of the floor of the Jacob Javits Center. More than a dozen company offering would-be e-retailers some kind of service plan on having a presence at the expo--everything from Web traffic analysis software to e-mail response management programs to online meeting hosting.

Three makers of speech recognition products-- IBM , Lernout & Hauspie, and MacSpeech --will be at Macworld Expo. With IBM's release of ViaVoice for the Mac earlier this year and MacSpeech's upcoming iListen release, speech recognition has been an interesting segment of the Mac market to follow.

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