This eWEEK - 8

It's not easy being microsoft. you sell by far the most widely used office productivity suite, but how do you give users reasons to upgrade to the latest version?

Its not easy being microsoft. you sell by far the most widely used office productivity suite, but how do you give users reasons to upgrade to the latest version? With the release of Office 2003, Microsoft once again is faced with the arcane calculus implicit in balancing how much to nudge users to upgrade without alienating them. Add to that equation the necessity of earning enough revenue to pay its programmers and achieve profit margins that are the envy of the industry. And this time, theres the real possibility that users could do more than merely cast a wandering eye at Suns StarOffice or even OpenOffice. With strong cross-platform support, these suites are strongest exactly where Office 2003 is weakest.

As Jason Brooks reports in his review, there are many things to like about the new Office 2003, but the products real headline grabber is broad XML support. This version will test whether users really see productivity gains in implementing Web services. As Jason points out, putting Web services to work with Microsoft Office will take some integration effort. The same is true, and perhaps more so, if you implement Web services with OpenOffice, Jason says.

eWEEK Labs Director Jim Rapoza in his Tech Directions column sees strong-arm tactics in Microsoft seeking to take advantage of essential enhancements in Outlook to get users to swallow the whole suite upgrade. Jims advice: Just say no. If you want to upgrade only what is necessary, when its needed, acquiescing in this kind of bundling will only encourage Microsoft to continue the practice, Jim says.

Meanwhile, backup is moving forward, thanks to the forthcoming release of NetBackup 5.0 from Veritas Software. As Evan Koblentz reports, the upgrade to NetBackup 4.5 has plenty of features—including support for files up to 64 terabytes—that should keep Veritas users happy and could increase the distance between Veritas and competitors.

While Microsoft has taken the heat of thermonuclear temperatures over its handling of security, IBM, as Lisa Vaas reports, is taking some heat of it own from security experts over security flaws in DB2. While huge numbers of Microsoft servers crashing to a halt will always grab headlines, a savvy hacker with knowledge of corporate data and knowledge of DB2s vulnerabilities could do far greater financial damage to a corporate victim.

Till next eWeek, send your comments to stan_gibson@ziffdavis.com.