Microsoft is making significant changes to the next version of its Office software, bringing a new file format and new user interface to users who have not seen such dramatic changes in 10 years.
Microsoft renamed its software suite Office 2007, a change from the former Microsoft Office 12, and highlighted productivity gains and improved suites and applications for volume license and retail customers.
“The 2007 release is the productivity breakthrough that customers have been asking for,” said Microsoft Vice President of the Information Worker Product Management Group Chris Capossela.
Making the Switch
Although the changes, aimed at worker connectivity and collaboration, may be beneficial, there is still some trepidation over whether the suite provides the ability to read and transfer documents and files from different versions of Office.
Microsoft is also facing a more competitive market, but it is not the alternative office software suites such as OpenOffice or StarOffice that are the biggest threat. Rather, it’s older versions of the software giant’s own products, analysts agreed.
“The issue, as always, is to convince people they need something new when they have something that seems to work fairly well,” Endpoint Technologies Associates Founder and President Roger Kay told TechNewsWorld. “It seems to get harder each time.”
The Office 2007 release — to be available in beta in the first half of the year and for purchase in the second half of the year — will include a range of new servers to integrate solutions across collaboration, content management and forms, business intelligence (BI) and project management, Microsoft said. It released some pricing information, setting the cost of Office 2007 at about US$400, with a professional version at $500.
Fear of Change
Although there may be collaboration and other advantages to the new XML file format and user interface (UI) with Office 2007, those changes are the types of things that IT managers and workers fear, Gartner Vice President Steve Kleynhans told TechNewsWorld.
“Anytime you start changing the file format, that has disruptive impacts on what organizations do,” he said, adding that many have bad memories of prior file format changes in Office.
Kleynhans said a new UI with new processes and ways of accessing capabilities may also scare IT shops, which do not typically train people on Office applications.
“It doesn’t matter how good the new user interface is, it’s different,” he said.
Compatibility Is King
Microsoft will be challenged to convince consumers and business customers to migrate to new software, but the ability to send, receive and transfer documents within an organization and with partners or customers is far more important than the cost or trouble to upgrade for most users, Kay stressed.
He maintains that as soon as users are unable to read documents coming in a new format, they will upgrade without hesitation.
“People care more about compatibility than anything else, including features and price,” he said.