Microsoft pushes dual deployment of Vista, Office 2007

Microsoft plan could backfire and push upgrades of both products further out

With the launch of Windows Vista and Office 2007 less than a month away, Microsoft on Monday was in New York showing off some features of the products it thinks should convince business customers that upgrading -- and deploying both applications at once -- is a good idea.

Windows Vista and Office 2007 will launch together alongside Exchange Server 2007 at an event in New York on Nov. 30. On Monday, Microsoft said Office 2007 had been shipped to manufacturing, and that customers in the U.S. and Canada can begin downloading the product on Dec. 1.

It's Microsoft's hope that users will deploy Vista and Office 2007 together, but this plan could backfire and push upgrades of both products further out. Most companies have said they will hold off on adopting Vista right away until they can justify the cost of the new OS or the first service pack is available for it. This may also delay enterprise upgrades to Office 2007.

"In all likelihood, enterprises will tie deployment of both Vista and Office 2007 with a hardware upgrade cycle," said Andrew Brust, chief of new technology for IT consulting firm twentysix New York. His reasoning for this is that it would be easier for companies to handle one disruption to its IT systems than two.

Peter McKiernan, a senior product manager for Windows, highlighted new features built directly into Vista that will make it more efficient and productive for enterprise employees to use the OS in their everyday work environment. These features also will enhance applications in Office 2007, he said.

Among them is Vista's new search engine. Microsoft has added a search box right into Windows "Start" menu, so instead of having to find applications or files by clicking through lists, all users have to do is start typing the name of the application or file they are looking for and it will come up in the search, McKiernan said.

Users can still search specifically for certain kinds of files, such as e-mails, Word documents, photos or music, but because search is an inherent part of the OS, it speeds up any search process considerably, he said.

Microsoft also has added a feature to its file system that allows users to preview any document before they open it in a preview pane. This includes all of the documents that originate in Office 2007, he said.

Additionally, Vista has a new "Live Icons" feature that gives users the ability to make icons in a folder look like a snapshot of the first page of an Office 2007 document, McKiernan said. "Now I can glance at a [file icon] and know what I'm looking at," he said.

Even with all of these bells and whistles, customers may delay upgrading to either or both software packages indefinitely, said Don Smutny, a software developer for an IT company in the Midwestern U.S. He does not think Microsoft has given most companies compelling enough reasons to move off the current versions of Windows and Office.

Microsoft is not oblivious to this situation -- executives have called it a "good enough" problem, meaning customers believe the software they currently use is sufficient for the tasks of the organization. But it seems despite all of the company's efforts, the problem still exists.

"I don't see any medium or large companies rushing to upgrade to Office 2007 or Vista," Smutny said.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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