First, I visited the Gmail Help Group as you advised, and tried the "quick fix": changing the SMTP port to 578. It did not work in my situation.
Next, I went ahead and created a system restore point, and then visited the Microsoft Office Update website
. I let the update agent interrogate my system and it recommended some patches and SP3. I installed SP3 and rebooted. After the reboot, I switched my firewall back to the original settings, then tested my Gmail account in Outlook.
I tested all my applications: so far so good. It appears that the Office Service Pack doesn't make a lot of changes to the OS -- at least it doesn't seem to effect functionality of installed productivity/utility apps. However, I did notice that my registry grew by a few MB's (although, I consider that minor and acceptable).
NOTE** for others who may reference this post, there is an alternative fix listed at the Gmail Help Group site: backup your data, including .pst files, etc... then perform a complete uninstall of Office XP/2002, followed by a clean install of Office 2003.
Provided you have access to a licensed copy and want to spend the "x" number of hours doing it.
Again, heartfelt thanks to Underwhelmed for providing the resources and personal time to assist with this issue.
Best of luck to anyone else experiencing this problem.