Large numbers of customers are not upgrading to later editions of Office, like Office 2003. Microsoft claims a total of 600 million Office users, but analysts estimate 30% are still running Office 1997, having decided later editions Office 2000, Office XP and Office 2003 don't offer enough; the prime reason cited in polls is that Office 97 is "good enough" for these users' needs. That's a worrying fact for Microsoft, now working on the successor to Office 2003, codenamed Office 12, which is due in the second half of 2006.
Office 12, demonstrated at Microsoft's partner conference, will be the first version of Office to feature peer-to-peer technology from Groove Networks, acquired this year. Other areas of focus for Office 12 are browser-based forms, InfoPath development and integration with Outlook, improved search and information management tools, and content management tools.
"A lot of people don't understand how Microsoft Office has changed in last four to five years," Chris Capossela corporate vice president for the information worker product management group told delegates on Friday morning. "We've gone beyond traditional applications of Windows and Excel on desktop and expanded beyond improving personal productivity."
"The number one competition in the Office business is this perception that old versions of Office or cloned versions of Office are good enough and you don't need the latest software for end users or information workers. We are on a mission to show people the work place has changed," Capossela said.
To shepherd ISVs toward the legacy Office market Microsoft is increasing its level of investment. Microsoft is investing $300m (£166m) in Office marketing for fiscal 2006 and expanding the number of field sales people from 450 to more than 1,000. Capossela said Microsoft wants to quadruple the size of its partner network from 240,000 companies to move users off of legacy versions of Office.