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Traditional Information Providers Branch Out
Posted On September 1, 2003
I've been noticing some interesting partnerships lately that are pairing traditional information providers with mainstream software companies and popular search engines. It looks like content could really become accessible to the masses-if they want it and will pay.

Last spring, Barbara Quint reported on the beta 2 version of Microsoft Office 2003, which offers a new Research Task Pane that incorporates commercial data from third-party vendors ( The research feature allows users to highlight words or phrases in a document and search databases from within the program. Some research sources are built into Office, such as a dictionary, a thesaurus, translation services, MSN Search, MSN Money Stock Quotes, and Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia. Others are external services requiring an Internet connection.

The initial vendor offerings announced at that time included Factiva's Publications Library, Gale's Company Profiles, and Alacritude's eLibrary. All the vendors partnering with Microsoft require payments, either subscriptions or pay-per-view. Users who want access to vendor services can subscribe online immediately.

In July, LexisNexis announced that it would partner with Microsoft to add legal research to the 2003 release of Microsoft Office. Users selecting LexisNexis will be able to match their search term against the company's free database of summaries of court decisions found on its LexisONE legal portal. For a fee, users can then expand their research using the LexisNexis Shepard's Citation Service to determine the validity of a case. Future releases will let users access their full LexisNexis subscription. (Back in 1991, LexisNexis inaugurated its Smart Tag connections through Microsoft Office.)

Recently, Microsoft announced that a number of healthcare industry software vendors, solution providers, and organizations have developed a range of solutions that take advantage of the 2003 release of Microsoft Office as a platform to increase productivity and improve quality of care. According to Microsoft, these solutions "automate paper-based processes, streamline workflow, and enable workers throughout the healthcare industry to focus on what they do best: healthcare." The technologies implemented in Office position it as a front end to work processes and integrated access to information.

Ovid, an operating company of Wolters Kluwer Health, is integrating journal content from its Journals@Ovid database into various Microsoft Office 2003 applications. Healthcare professionals will have access to full-text content from more than 900 medical and health sciences journals. Clinicians or researchers can select an article and view the entire full text, if their institution is an Ovid subscriber, or they can purchase the material through Ovid's PayPerView feature. Bette Brunelle, executive vice president of Ovid, said, "Ovid is dedicated to finding new and innovative methods of integrating content into the enterprise environment that enhance end-user work flow and, by extension, the medical research process."

Elsevier announced that it has developed a healthcare reference package compatible with the 2003 release of Microsoft Office. The package includes two of the company's medical reference titles: Dorland's Medical Dictionary and Mosby's Drug Consult.

Some of the other healthcare companies that are partnering with Microsoft include Gold Standard Multimedia (which will offer its interactive drug information solution, Clinical Pharmacology, as an add-on product); Allscripts Healthcare Solutions; NextGen Healthcare Information Systems, Inc.; and MICROMEDEX, a division of the Thomson Corp. (which will offer its SaveNotes feature to customize CareNotes Patient Education documents).

According to information on the Microsoft site, the Research Task Pane, which uses XML to provide access to data sources, can also search customized corporate data sources. For example, an organization can build a database of information about its products and services, and offer that information through an intranet to its employees. Employees can also incorporate additional third-party data services into their data sources.

Microsoft, which had planned to launch Office 2003 in the summer, now says this has been delayed until Oct. 21, 2003, though Office will be pre-installed on some PCs by the end of this month.

Google and IEEE Finally, Google, never out of the media spotlight for long, announced that researchers will be able to locate technical papers published by The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) using the Google search engine. Google is currently crawling, or indexing, the abstract records for all online IEEE technical documents and standards available through the IEEE Xplore online delivery platform ( There are now nearly 1 million documents in the IEEE database. The project is expected to be completed this month, at which time Google users will see the linked content in their search results. Abstracts will be available free to everyone, and full-text documents are available to IEEE subscribers or through individual online purchase.

Opportunities for Publishers? While it looks like publishers are lured by the wide distribution possibilities these mainstream partnerships can bring, one industry analyst has warned that there are as many dangers as there are opportunities. Check out John Blossom's recent commentary (, which cautions vendors to beware of neglecting other distribution channels that might provide them "better opportunities to increase the contextual value of their content."

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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