Office is a victim of its success. Microsoft has found that many customers don’t use a vast array of features in Office and are satisfied with the features they do use. Customers don’t see a pressing need to change for more.
“The No. 1 competitive challenge for us is the satisfaction that people have in our installed base [of software] — the fact that they feel that what they have is working,” says Jeff Raikes, Microsoft group vice president and head of the Office product.
The new version of Office is designed to work closely with other Microsoft products — such as its server and database software — so it could be a catalyst for driving sales of those other products. What’s more, many of the new features in Office address growing areas of software — such as “document management” and “Web services” based on a standard technology called XML — that Microsoft can’t cede to other software companies.
With Office System 2003, Microsoft is offering a new communications and collaboration platform to host applications that do the following:
Wire productivity tools into corporate data. We’ve all loved–or loved to hate–the PC as a “personal” productivity tool. But analyzing data from business applications in Excel is still a hassle for employees. With Office System 2003, a sales manager can get the latest sales pipeline from a Siebel-generated Web service or set up a field service call sheet with the address and service details. Link ad hoc people processes to rigid transaction processes. Corporations still comprise the system of record and the foundation for how businesses are managed. Yet employees have a largely disconnected set of work processes to push decisions forward and complete basic transactions–often by e-mailing around documents. With Office System, companies can couple those separate universes by, for example, using InfoPath as the front end to an Oracle-based service request rather than rekeying a printed business form. Bring live communications to document-based collaboration. Office System 2003 brings instant messaging and “presence awareness”–the magic that can tell when someone is online and available–into its desktop tools. So from within the Excel sales pipeline report, a sales vice president can ping the western sales manager to question the data in that region’s shaky forecast. And the beleaguered manager can then launch a Live Meeting Webcast to offer explanations about the shortfall–with data both can directly view.
How will the open-source community respond?