In a push to gain small business clients, Microsoft has released a beta version of its new Office product, code-named Magellan.

This will be Microsoft's second edition of its Office suite for small businesses, a market segment on which the company has increasingly focused. Microsoft plans to introduce the final product in late 2005.

The Office release will include the existing Office 2003 core set of programs, plus the new Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting. In addition, Microsoft is looking for independent software vendors to play a strategic role in building both vertical and horizontal solutions on top of Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting.

The software will include an updated version of Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager, the personal information management product. Rajat Taneja, general manager of small business applications, says, "We're targeting small business clients, specifically businesses with about 10 to 20 employees."

Microsoft is also partnering with Automatic Data Processing Small Business Services to offer integrated payroll services. Pricing for Magellan hasn't been set yet.

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