Microsoft Corp. is working on new versions of Windows and Office, including an enterprise version of the upcoming Windows Vista and a premium version of Office 12.
Microsoft officials remain tight-lipped about details, but they said both products are still in development. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told analysts at a meeting here last week that these new versions will cost more than standard Windows and Office offerings and will help drive growth.
A Premium CAL (Client Access License) for both Windows and Office will debut with the new versions, and Ballmer said Microsoft has work to do to convince customers that the extra cost is justified.
"This is premium value at a premium price," he said. "We have to continue to enhance and upgrade that value to drive upgrades."
Bill Gates, Microsofts chairman and chief software architect, said substantial innovation went into the base version of Windows Vista to ensure that Windows keeps its high market share. Microsoft now believes it has enough extra features to create an expanded product, much the way Windows XP Professional was created, according to Gates.
Microsoft may be fighting an uphill battle, as many customers are already questioning the value of yet another Windows upgrade. "From what I have seen and heard so far, there is nothing compelling enough to convince me to upgrade to Windows Vista Professional, never mind an even-more-expensive version. Im far from convinced about that strategy," said one enterprise IT manager.
In addition, Microsoft is looking to bolster its Office product line, particularly the lines SharePoint and Exchange components. The company hopes that the workflow rights management and document life-cycle capabilities in SharePoint "eventually will become common sense so that businesses will build their business applications and all their information—visualization and sharing activities—around that," Gates said.
Al Gillen, an analyst for IDC, in Framingham, Mass., said it is unclear what Microsoft will include in the Premium CAL. But whatever it comes up with will have to be more favorably priced than if users were to buy an individual CAL for each server product.
"Microsoft clearly is hoping that Office applications on the server will become pervasive in the enterprise space and that those users will be willing to pay a CAL for each of their desktop users to access them," Gillen said.
In addition to the premium versions, Microsoft is at work on a number of other server offerings. The company is rumored to be working on several new Office 12 components, including Excel and InfoPath servers, but officials have so far declined to confirm this.