Spring clean for Office suites

It's the month for new desktop application suite releases with freshened versions of both Microsoft Office and its wannabe open source competitor, OpenOffice, being launched. However, there's no apparent stampede to adopt the new packages.

Office 2003 will be available from retailers and OEM suppliers from October 22, Microsoft says. The suite is available in several editions, topping out at the NZ$1199 professional enterprise edition. Upgrades are priced at NZ$749.

Among the new features are an interface redesign for Outlook, along with a new spam filter and changes to improve dial-up performance, and many new XML capabilities. Two new Office applications, OneNote and InfoPath, are available separately.

IT managers spoken to by Computerworld say they will wait before deploying the new version of Office. Pat O’Connell, Carter Holt Harvey’s IT chief, says the company has its hands full migrating 5500 desktops to Windows XP and will wait until at least early next year before deciding whether to upgrade Office.

“It’s not something that we’re going to change, at least not on the fly,” O’Connell says. Earlier versions of Office do “all that we need, and probably more than we need really”, he says.

Harcourts IT manager Jason Wills says the realtor will buy Office 2003 with new PCs but doesn’t plan a rollout. “To be honest, we’re not really power users of it,” he says. “The financial returns just don’t add up at the moment.”

A third IT boss says the XML features of the new suite are interesting but his company isn't planning to be an early adopter.

None were investigating a move to Office alternatives. Earlier this month OpenOffice.org released version 1.1, available for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X (using the X11 window server) and Solaris. The new version of OpenOffice includes Flash and PDF export, integration with the MySQL database, improved accessibility and better compatibility with Microsoft Office. OpenOffice is available under either the GNU or Sun source licences.

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Matthew Cooney

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