Office 2007 Worries Users

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-03-06 Print this article Print

Neither competitors' wares nor new ui appeals to users

It will be an uphill climb for microsoft to push customers into upgrading to the 2007 Office system suite when released later this year, but wooing users away will be equally tough for competitors.

Top on the list of Microsofts challenges: Office 2007s new user interface, which could require extensive, expensive staff retraining, and a new file format, which could create compatibility issues, said analyst Joe Wilcox of Jupiter Research, in Washington. "When you introduce something new, it disrupts, and this increases things like help desk costs and employee downtime," Wilcox said.

Customers such as Robert Rosen, CIO for the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, in Bethesda, Md., and an eWEEK Corporate Partner, said the new look and feel "will slow up adoption significantly."

But Chris Schneider, senior marketing manager for Microsofts Information Worker Product Management Group, in Redmond, Wash., said Microsofts analysis indicates the learning curve is small, "so we dont anticipate an impact to peoples productivity." Microsoft also plans to add "lots of new kinds of training," Schneider said.

Backward compatibility was the No. 1 priority in designing the new Microsoft Office Open XML file formats, which will make it easier for people to access data regardless of what programs they use, Schneider said.

Enterprises also are increasingly pondering whether staff could use alternatives such as Sun Microsystems StarOffice and the Projects free distribution, said Kyle McNabb, an analyst with Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Mass.

Ed Benincasa, a vice president at FN Manufacturing and an eWEEK Corporate Partner, is checking out the alternatives. The company is moving some functions to Linux and must find an alternative to Microsoft Office, Benincasa said. FN has already deployed OpenOffice in limited production.

Persuading users to upgrade wont be easy. That was evidenced by user reluctance to upgrade to Office 2003 from Office XP and even Office 2000. The same could well apply with Office 2007, McNabb said.

But Microsofts Schneider disagrees. "Were seeing strong traction of Office 2003 among customers across all the segments we track," he said.

Still, getting customers to ditch Microsoft Office is no easy task. Tom Miller, the IT director for FoxHollow Technologies and an eWEEK Corporate Partner, said the companys program to look at alternatives factors in issues such as time, resources and compatibility. So far, FoxHollow has decided to stay with Microsoft Office.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel