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Initially expected at the end of 2003, BizTalk Server 2004 is living up to its name. It’s available now, in the first quarter of 2004.

Microsoft Corp announced Tuesday afternoon the latest version of its BizTalk integration platform with much fanfare—and a new focus on business process management and integration.

This is the company’s third iteration of the platform; the earlier versions were launched in 2000 and 2002. The intention of the latest version is that new role-specific tools will help users develop and manage more-complex business processes from environments within the Microsoft pantheon, including the Microsoft Office System and Visual Studio .Net.

At the same time, new functionality is geared toward helping not only the IT user, but business analysts as well, model and apply rules to business processes and determine the ‘health’ of their processes.

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