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Microsoft Corp. is set to launch on Nov. 8 its small-business solutions strategy, one element of which will be a new version of Microsoft Office designed expressly for the small-business manager or owner.

The new Office release is expected to include new payroll functionality, an updated version of Microsoft’s business-contact-manager technology and new Web services, according to sources close to the Redmond, Wash., company.

Click here for details and target dates for Microsoft’s Office 12.

Microsoft already sells a small-business version of Office, Office Small Business Edition 2003. That product bundles together Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher and the current release of business-contact manager.

According to some sources, this new version of Office is code-named “Magellan.” According to other sources, “Magellan” is the name of the team inside Microsoft that is devising the new version of Office, as well as other small-business-specific solutions.

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment before this story was published.

The Magellan Office release will be a further refinement of the existing Office SKU, according to sources. And it is key to Microsoft’s strategy of growing its Office business by creating new Office releases tailored for specific audiences.

The Magellan release, unlike the current Office Small Business Edition product, will bundle in a small-business payroll product and/or payroll-processing service, sources said.

Microsoft rival Intuit launched in late October its 2005 version of its QuickBooks small-business line. As part of its QuickBooks 2005 rollout, Intuit launched a new, in-house payroll-processing service for accountants and small businesses called QuickBooks Enhanced Payroll Plus.

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