Though the Office competition has improved compatibility issues, theres often a need for some people in an organization to use Excel macros, password-protected documents or Access databases. Many IT managers prefer an "all-or-nothing solution" instead of supporting dual packages, he said. "Its been a luxury to have the same software stack for all these years," Silver said. "Classifying users and giving different software to some [users] than to others is scary to managers. And it definitely requires more overhead. Its much easier to give everyone the same stuff." But the greatest competition to the current Microsoft Office 2003 are older versions of Office still in use in many enterprises, Silver said."To Microsofts dismay, Office 97 didnt stop working when they stopped supporting it," Silver said. "Since Office 2000, companies have moved very slowly to upgrade, although Office 2003 has an appeal for mobile workers." According to Silver, about 45 percent of larger enterprises are still using Office 2000, with less than 10 percent using the current Office 2003. He expects a greater shift to Office 2003 in 2005. Silver said more interest in StarOffice and OpenOffice could be sparked when customers now running Office 2000 decide to upgrade. He also suggested that enterprises will be more interested when their existing Software Assurance contracts expire. "In the Longhorn time frame, when older versions look really old, that will be an opportunity for Sun or OpenOffice.org to pick up some market share," he said. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.
For example, he pointed to an ad hoc survey taken at a recent Gartner conference, where about 15 percent of enterprise customers reported using Office 97, even though the software has been orphaned by Microsoft and suffers from a growing list of security issues.