So what about Office 2010? Should SMBs upgrade?
On the plus side, McLeish writes, Office 2010 completes Microsoft's shift to the Fluent UI introduced in Office 2007. Companies already using Office 2007 should have an easy transition.
And McLeish points out that Microsoft has finally offered access to Office apps via Sharepoint, the Web, and mobile devices as well as the desktop. While the Web versions of Office 2010 apps still seem rough to most observers, it's still a significant transition. And increased Sharepoint integration should make it easier for SMBs to develop enhancements.
McLeish also complements the new Backstage view for controls and properties.
But there are also speed bumps, including the fact that the suite comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. "For example, ActiveX controls and add-in (COM) dynamic link libraries (DLLs) that were written for 32-bit Office will not work in a 64-bit process. This means that Office 2010 64-bit solutions that try to load 32-bit ActiveX controls or DLLs will not work."
McLeish advises organizations with Office licenses that allow free upgrades to take advantage of that capability as soon as possible, especially for power users. But she warns companies to "deal with files proactively, not as afterthoughts." And she wonders whether Outlook 2010's integration with social networking capabilities will boost productivity or simply add distractions.
Even for SMBs, the Office 2010 upgrade isn't that easy. But here are my suggestions:
If you have workers on Office 2007 clamoring for specific new features, then move them Office 2010.
If your company is still on older versions of Office, and you're happy there, then don't worry about upgrading until you need to do so.
If you're a startup, or are undergoing significant growth, consider saving money by using a free or low-cost Office alternative where-ever possible.
Just be wary of having multiple versions of multiple productivity suites in the same office. Compatibility issues and training and support complications could erase any short-term licensing savings.