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Will Office 2007 answer call?

Microsoft's highly successful productivity suite will finally get some competition

Recently a reader e-mailed to ask my opinion of Office 2007, formerly known as Office 12. The productivity suite is scheduled for a major release at the beginning of 2007, although corporations will get the package before everyone in November.

Now the new Office system will have a whiz-bang graphical user interface plus other wonderful things.

Features aside, what will be interesting is if Google can mount a serious challenge.

Office has kicked everyone’s backside for years, including Corel WordPerfect, Lotus SmartSuite and Sun’s Star Office. Even pirated Office outpaces all challengers.

One thing to remember is that Office has not been through a major upgrade since 2003. That is four whole years, a long time if you ask me. A lot can happen in four years and vendors, especially Microsoft should not be asleep at the wheel for that long.

It is here where I think Microsoft has encountered a problem.

There is no doubt that Google will have a productivity suite available soon, which will be browser- based.

And, according to a recent study done by Softletter, more and more independent software vendors and other developers are interested in Google technology, have already released non-commercial software that includes Google technology or are experimenting with Google technology.

Google is already keeping the powers that be at Microsoft up at night. The Office productivity front is a new one that will be an interesting battleground in the near future.

Considering that one of the biggest issues in IT today is storage, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have someone else store your spreadsheets so valuable hard disk space can be freed up? Well, Google may be proposing that. Does Microsoft have and answer for this? We’ll have to wait and see.

What Office does have is longevity and loyalty. Users have learned throughout the years how to use it. Today, staffing agencies test on Office. It is a standard in the work place. For Google or anyone else to displacing this is going to take a lot of effort and some luck.

Cost control issues
Control is another issue. While it is nice to save on storage for some businesses it is not ideal. They would need to house important documents within its control.

Cost will be another factor. Expect a price bump with Office 2007. Meanwhile the Google productivity suite will more than likely be made available for a lot less.

The channel will have to make some serious bets on strategy. The software as a service model is getting some traction. My advice to the reader is to keep both eyes and ears open. More importantly, now is the time to engage with your customers and figure out where they are headed IT-wise.

The answers may lie there.