Office 11 Snubs Windows 9x, Me

Microsoft angered some customers with news that Office 11 will only work with Windows 2000 SP3, Windows XP or later releases.

Microsoft Corp. has told beta testers of Office 11, its next-version Office desktop productivity suite, that the product will only work with the Windows 2000 operating system with Service Pack 3 installed, Windows XP and later desktop releases.

This means that the more than 50 percent of the Redmond, Wash., software companys installed customer base, who still run Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition and Windows Millennium, will not be able to upgrade to Office 11 when it is released next year without first upgrading to at least Windows 2000 with Service Pack 3 installed.

Angry Microsoft customers told eWEEK this was yet another move to try to force them to upgrade to newer versions of the operating system. Analysts have previously estimated that as many as 60 percent of Microsoft customers still use Windows 95 or Windows 98.

A Microsoft spokesman acknowledged the move and confirmed to eWEEK late Tuesday afternoon that Office 11 will only run on Windows 2000 SP3 and later releases. The product was primarily aimed at medium- to large-sized businesses, most of which are already using Windows 2000 or Windows XP, he said.

Asked if Microsoft was concerned that the move will drive those Windows users not on 2000 or XP to consider Linux or StarOffice/OpenOffice, the spokesman said the company is not worried as "customers have told us they want security and reliability, and we are giving them that. We are confident the products continue to offer compelling value and will do so going forward."

This latest move by Microsoft follows a recent outcry over its latest licensing scheme, which many customers refused to adopt, saying it would cost them more.

Some beta testers had asked for Office 11 on the Windows 9x code base, which powers all the Windows releases before 2000, but had not received their beta copies of the software. This prompted Microsoft to announce on the beta newsgroups on Monday night that it was removing support for Windows 9x.

In a posting to the Office beta newsgroups, Sloan Crayton, of Microsoft Office Beta Support, said there are a number of reasons for removing support for Windows 9x. "As a number of you have noted, Windows 98 and 98 SE are getting a bit old now. It also relates heavily to the push to improve security in our products.

"Windows 9x is inherently insecure. It also takes quite a bit of development time to make our products work well on Windows 9x. We determined that it would be more effective to spend that time making our products work better on the more advanced platforms," he said.

Microsoft chose SP3 on Windows 2000 because that service pack includess Windows Installer 2.0, which shipped in Windows XP. "Installer 2.0 is much better about limiting reboots at install time and when applying patches. It also has features that allow us to minimize the need for the user to insert the CD.

"Lastly, Installer 2.0 allows us to optimize the patches so that the size of the patch is much smaller. We did that with Office XP SP2 when downloaded from the Products Update page (SP2 is only 6MB when Installer 2.0 is installed versus 15MB for Installer 1.x)," he said.

While Microsoft realized that the decision "wont be popular among all of our customers, it allows us to create a better and more stable product," Crayton said.

(Editors Note: This story has been updated since its original posting to include comments from Microsoft.)

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