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Microsoft Yanks Office From Web Store

Move comes one day after deadline to remove XML tools took effect.
Microsoft appears to have pulled packaged versions of its Office 2007 productivity suite from its online store, one day after the passage of a court-imposed deadline under which the software maker was required to strip certain components from the product.

Visitors to Microsoft's online store as of early Tuesday were greeted with a front-page promo for Office Home and Student 2007, but were informed via a grammatically challenged message that boxed versions of the software are not for sale.

"This product currently available as a download only. Package product is temporarily not available," the message said. Packaged versions of Office Professional 2007 and Office Ultimate 2007 were also listed as out of stock.

It's likely that Microsoft was unable to restock its supplies with revised versions of the software in time to meet the deadline.

It's not clear whether the situation would affect the company's bottom line, as other online retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, and Staples, were continuing to offer boxed versions of Office 2007 for sale online as of Tuesday.

Microsoft is scheduled to report results for its second fiscal quarter on Jan. 28.

An appeals court last month ordered Microsoft to stop selling all versions of Word, a key part of the Office suite, that feature custom XML editing tools as of Jan. 11 because such software infringes on a patent held by a Canadian vendor. Microsoft was also hit with a $290 million fine.

Toronto-based i4i originally sued Microsoft in 2007, claiming that an XML editor built into Word steps on its patent. In August, the U.S. District Court for Eastern Texas found in favor of i4i. That ruling was upheld in December by the U.S. Court of Appeals. Microsoft has appealed the appellate court's decision.

For now at least, the ruling means Microsoft can't sell versions of Word that can open documents saved in the .XML, .DOCmsftX, or .DOCM formats that contain custom XML.

Those formats were at the heart of the patent dispute. DOCX is the default format for the most current version of Word, which is included in Microsoft Office 2007. Custom XML is used by businesses to link their corporate data to Word documents.

The patent, No. 5,787,449, describes how programs go about "manipulating a document's content and architecture separately."

Microsoft Office, which includes Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, accounted for more than $3 billion in worldwide sales in the company's most recent fiscal year and is used by literally millions of businesses and consumers for everyday tasks like word processing and spreadsheet creation.

Microsoft shares were off .69%, to $30.06, in pre-market trading Tuesday.

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