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by Paul Kiser

Paul Kiser - CEO 2020 Enterprise Technologies

(NOTE: This blog was originally published on March 1, 2010-Microsoft released Office 2010 on June 22, 2010)

In the next few months Microsoft will officially launch the next generation of Windows Office (Office 2010, code-named Office 14) and it will create new dilemmas for many business owners, Information Technology (IT) managers and users of Windows Office. Consider the following issues:

Microsoft Office 2010

  • Windows Office commands the office productivity software market with some claiming that Windows Office has a 95% market share, or better.
  • Once available to the general public, Office 2010 will be competing with its own predecessors. Office 2003 and Office 2007 are approximately equal in the number of users.
  • Although it is over seven years old, Office 2003 is still actively used in businesses because Office 2007 introduced dramatic changes that made the product more like a new product, rather than a new version. This caused many users to stick with the 2003 version, rather than trying to learn the updated product. (As of February 2009, users of Office 2003 still exceeded users of Office 2007.)
  • There are three different versions of the Windows platforms (Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7) actively being used in the business world.
  • Microsoft conceded to business last year by delaying the ‘Stop Sell’ date of Windows XP from June 30, 2009 to June 30, 2010, but the platform will not likely receive another stay of execution.

What faces the business world is a dilemma of what Windows platforms and versions of Office should be used in their work environment. This issue will become acute with the purchase of new computers, but will there be communication and document sharing issues between old computers and new computers and software?

The issue boils down to the individual user versus IT and management. From an IT perspective having everyone on one system is more efficient in terms of training and maintenance. Management usually prefers equipment to be interchangeable and using different versions of office productivity software could lead to minor conflicts when sharing files. However, individual users (including management) of Office 2003 are often adamant about staying with what they know.

The stark reality is that with the early success of Windows 7 and positive reviews about Office 2010 Beta, the old software (Windows XP, Vista, and Office 2003) have a limited business life. It is reasonable to think that by 2012, all PC’s will come with Windows 7 and Office 2010, and prior versions will not be an option. That is certainly the road that Microsoft would prefer and ultimately they will decide when all prior versions will 1) no longer be sold, and 2) no longer be supported.

How Did This Happen?
This issue has come to the surface for several reasons. First and foremost is the success of Office 2003. The version, originally named Office 11, built on the success of previous versions and coupled with the adoption of the Windows XP platform became the productivity software of choice during the years of 2004-07. When Microsoft introduced its new Vista platform and Office 2007 (code name Office 12) it anticipated a steady transition of business users from Office 2003 to Office 2007.

Unfortunately, Microsoft miscalculated by trying to make a major re-creation of its platform with Vista and, at the same time, introducing a ‘Mac’ like look to its software that required users to re-learn the software. The bugs of Vista and the new look of the productivity software gave a bad reputation in the business world to the revised software versions. Microsoft then pushed to bring out a newer platform version (Windows 7) to overcome the perceptions of Vista, but that did not overcome the negative impression of Office 2007. Office 2010 or Office 14 (the name ‘Office 13’ was skipped for obvious reasons) is Microsoft’s hope to get most users back on one version of its productivity software. It is a major gamble because the door is open for another software company to try and capitalize on users who don’t want to be forced to adapt the new look of Office; however, most businesses have invested too much into Microsoft products to change over now.

What to do about Office 2010?
The one inescapable fact is that Office 2003 is at the end of its business life. Yes, people will continue to use it and five years from now there will be a small group of people who are fiercely proud that they still use Office 2003; however, based on early reactions to the Beta version and the reality that new computers will soon come with Office 2010, it seems plausible that Office 2010 will rapidly eclipse both Office 2007 and Office 2003. In three years it would not be surprising to see Office 2010 have 60% to 70% of the market, so logically it would make sense for businesses to prepare to make the change.

But just because it is logical doesn’t mean the adoption of Office 2010 will be accepted by business users. Some companies will take a passive approach and let individuals learn Office 2010 as they purchase new computers. This approach is not recommended for larger companies or companies that have a high degree of internal and external communications. Having staff on different versions of office productivity software can create unexpected and time-consuming problems.

Each organization will have to make their own evaluation of what will work best for their situation; however, as Windows 7 and Office 2010 begin to dominate the market, staying with older version will seem less like an option and more like a liability for the company.

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