But while many customers might not be upgrading, getting them to ditch Office altogether will be no easy task. Tom Miller, IT director for Fox Hollow Technologies, in Redwood City, Calif., and also an eWEEK Corporate Partner, said that while the company has a program to look at alternatives, it factors issues like time, resources and compatibility into its examination of any possible migration to another solution. So far it has decided to stay with Office. However, Jupiter Researchs Wilcox told eWEEK that if there were ever an opportunity for StarOffice and OpenOffice.org, "this might be it, going head-to-head against Office 2007, because we have a new file format and a new user interface, which means a lot of extra cost," and which could torpedo many enterprises from upgrading.Forresters McNabb, however, feels it is not Sun that has the most to benefit from this potential opportunity, but rather IBM with its Workplace Managed Client. This solution offers customers greater desktop productivity as a service and removes the issue of managing individual desktop images. "This is more of an innovative alternative to what you can get from Microsoft, which is innovating with the end user in mind," he said. FN Manufacturings Benincasa would like to see a good, robust server-based office application, and ran an eWEEK lab for ThinkFree, which is server-based and cross-platform. Click here to read eWEEK Labs eVal of ThinkFree Office 3. "The time savings for server automatic deployment and updates will be tremendous. We do not expect that a server-based application will meet all needs, but, it should meet most. We are also beginning deployment of Linux terminal services as a way to reduce individual desktop costs," he said. Other enterprise customers like Rosen are also interested in the IBM Managed Client, but he admits that it would be hard to change because of his companys strong history with Office. "But I am still tracking it and may use it in pilots," Rosen said. "Compatibility is critical, since we receive so many documents from outside sources. We also have a Microsoft Enterprise license, so there is also not a big motive to move to OpenOffice or StarOffice." Having played with OpenOffice, the incompatibilities and interface differences were sufficient that the cost to change would be significant, he said, adding though that how this plays out with Office 2007 remains to be seen. If IBM had a really robust workplace client and Sun an innovative offering that included an e-mail client and better collaboration support, even more of Microsofts market share could be eroded, but "those alternatives just dont exist at this point," McNabb said. Part of Microsofts problem is that it is introducing a lot of new software at the same time. "Not only is there the new Office environment, but also Windows Vista, which is a lot for IT organizations to absorb and may cause some to switch gears," he said. One such customer, FN Manufacturing, has no plans to upgrade to Vista and Office at the same time, preferring to wait until the company has some production experience under its belt, Benincasa said. But Microsofts Schneider points out that while the greatest value in the 2007 Office system release will be derived by using the products on Windows Vista, they would also run great on Windows XP SP1. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.
In addition, a lot of Software Assurance contracts are expiring between now and the end of July, and Microsoft will be aggressively beating the sales drum. Those businesses might well be looking at their alternatives and options before signing a new contract, he said.