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9/19/2005
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Gartner: Wait Until At Least '07 For Office 12

Most enterprises will switch to Microsoft Vista, and the newest version of SQL Server, before attempting to upgrade the Office suite, Gartner analysts say.

Microsoft's upcoming Office 12 should be approached with caution, said a major research firm Monday.

"Despite many potentially powerful enhancements, most enterprises will find it hard to justify upgrading [to Office 12] during 2007 and 2008," wrote a half dozen Gartner analysts in an online briefing posted to the Stamford, Conn.-based company's Web site.

Recommendations like that are exactly what Microsoft doesn't want to hear, because the Redmond, Wash.-based developer, has had trouble making its upgrade case for the productivity software suite. Office 2003, for example, the current edition of the application suite, has been adopted by only a fraction of enterprises.

In part, Gartner's advice was tied with the release schedule of not only Office 12, but also other major software, including Windows Vista and SQL Server 2005.

"Microsoft said it will ship Office 12 by the end of 2006 [but] in this industry, on-time delivery would be highly unusual," said the Gartner analysts. "In the same relative time frame, the number of Microsoft-related upgrades that users will have to deal with (such as Vista and SQL Server) is potentially high, meaning that many firms will not be in a position to roll out Office 12 before 2008."

Among its other recommendations, Gartner advised corporations to evaluate IBM's Workplace product line as an Office alternative -- "Workplace is far more 'real' today than Office 12," the analysts said -- and to keep an ear open for later Office 12 details, including some kind of integration with Groove Networks, the company that Microsoft bought in March.

"We note the lack of any statements about Groove Networks' technology," said the analysts. "It will be a bad sign If Microsoft does not integrate Groove by the time Office 12 ships."

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