Microsoft last week shipped 20,000 copies of the first beta release of Office 2000 in the US, and IT managers will find a strong integration between Microsoft's client-side front-end products and server-side back-end products.
Microsoft Office product managers are calling Office 2000 "the birth of the two-way Web", because users will be able to save Word documents to a URL address.
Essentially, users running an internal Web server will have intranet documents created at the same time a Word document is created. Individual departments can have write access, which eliminates handling before a document is published.
However, although this feature will allow Word and non-Word users to view and share documents, its real significance may be the continued blurring of the difference between stand-alone desktop applications and more network-centric ones.
Office 2000 will use FrontPage technology - Microsoft's Web authoring application - on the server side.
FrontPage extensions, which will support all popular Web servers, allow users to save documents directly to the Web. Microsoft will not charge for the extensions.
Microsoft will also improve integration between Office and other back-end applications.
Office 2000 will also include features exclusively for users of Windows Terminal Server, which has a limited capacity on the client hardware side. For example, users will be able to save customised menus and dictionaries to the server rather than to the local hard drive.