Forrester: Microsoft Office in no danger from competitors

However, 2010 could be a transitional year for enterprises to consider alternatives, an analyst said

Microsoft Office is still the most prevalent productivity suite among enterprise customers, but 2010 could see more adoption of competitive suites as companies ponder their next investments in this area, according to a new report by Forrester Research.

Eighty percent of enterprise customers are still using some version of Microsoft Office for worker productivity and collaboration, with only 8 percent using alternatives, which include Sun StarOffice, Google Premier Apps, Lotus Symphony and Zoho, according to the report by Forrester analyst Sheri McLeish. The report polled 152 IT decision makers.

"Basically, the bottom line is Microsoft Office is really quite entrenched in the global large business organization today," she said in an interview Thursday.

Microsoft's technical support is winding down for both Office 2000 and Office 2003, and the roughly 20 percent of companies that support some version of Office but still have not moved to the current version, Office 2007, will have a decision to make in the coming year, McLeish said.

When the recession hit, companies considered their choices of productivity applications as an area where they could cut corners, she said. In 2010, depending on the economy, companies will likely start to make plans for either upgrading to Office 2010 or choosing an alternative.

Microsoft isn't planning to release Office 2010 until sometime in the first half of next year, giving competitors a chance to gain headway with enterprise customers, she said.

"Given they were dragging their feet, coupled with the soured economy, it's time for them to make some choices about the future," McLeish said.

If the economy improves, Office 2010 will be a likely choice for many, she said. However, since companies don't need all of the complex functionality that Office provides, some may choose to transition from Office 2000 or 2003 to a less expensive alternative.

Still, interoperability with Office remains a key factor -- because of its long history, enterprises "won't be able to completely remove Microsoft Office from the business," McLeish said.

Google's recently introduced Wave application, which combines e-mail, IM, blogging, photo management, wikis and document sharing, could possibly become a compelling option, particularly if Google were to tie that functionality into its Google Apps suite, she added.

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