Resellers can expect to stock their shelves with Microsoft's new Encarta interactive encyclopaedia in September following the product's launch this week.
Microsoft used the services of ACF president and Midnight Oil lead singer Peter Garrett to help launch the product as one of the local editors to have contributed Australian content.
Though still struggling to attain the brand recognition of Britannica, Encarta is being marketed as a valuable research and reference tool for school-age students. With Microsoft claiming no legacy as a print medium reference tool, it has been designed specifically for the Internet age.
Claimed to be bringing interactive reference material into the Internet age, Encarta Encyclopaedia Deluxe 2000 will sell for $149 with a $60 rebate, Microsoft said at the launch.
The revised edition boasts more Australian content which has been written by local editors as well as school curriculum guides developed in consultation with educational institutes. Interactive video and audio clips which create "virtual tours" are also new while 19,000 Web links are included and the search engine has been enhanced to be able to pinpoint desired information quickly.
"Encarta is not just an encyclopaedia," Craig Bartholomew, MS's general manager, reference business unit said while in town for the launch. "It is about answering questions and educating children."
In an effort to alleviate this problem, Melinda Dunn, the local product marketing manager, said every one of the 10,000 primary and secondary schools in Australia have been given a free copy.
Microsoft is also claiming that Encarta has more Australian content than other interactive, multimedia encyclopaedias on the market.
Interestingly, Microsoft has partnered with the Australian Conservation Foundation to help fund marine preservation. As a result, it will donate $5 from every copy of Encarta sold to the ACF.
Microsoft has also upgraded the associated Encarta World English Dictionary and the Interactive World Atlas and is bundling them together with Encarta. This forms the Encarta Reference Suite 2000 which carries an RRP of $199.