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Microsoft's Battle For Software Mindshare 245

Posted by Zonk
from the 40-million-open-office-users-say-meh dept.
chemicaloli writes to mention a BBC article about Microsoft's battle to convince users they need to buy new software. The article explores the changes to the UI in Microsoft Office 2007. Along with the changes prompted by the adoption of the 'Ribbon', the article also looks at some of the software's new features. From the article: "'One of the biggest challenges... is to fight that perception that old versions of software are good enough,' said Microsoft's Chris Capossela. Office 2007 goes on sale to business on 30 November, the same date new operating system Vista is launched. 'Our business model of course allows you to keep using Office 2003 — the software doesn't really expire,' said Mr Capossela, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Business Division. Many large businesses will have Office 2007 delivered as part of existing IT contracts but small business and individual consumers will need persuading to make the change."
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Microsoft's Battle For Software Mindshare

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  • Lab Rats (Score:4, Funny)

    by MECC (8478) * on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:05AM (#16929776)
    The firm also undertook hundreds of thousands of hours of lab research

    I had no idea those little white rats liked using Word. . .

  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:07AM (#16929804) Journal

    Therein lies Microsoft's problem -- each new iteration of their software all of a sudden must render their older generation software "not good enough", giving the lie to all earlier claims about previous generations of product. This is the classical Microsoft business model. Microsoft is about selling a product, not providing customer satisfaction.

    This may be a bigger shift for Microsoft than the internet was, retooling the way they think about business as a service and value-added support company rather than a company trotting out latest and greatest generations of (already quite mature) software (sheeesh, how many more features can you conceive for today's word processors?). And, have you looked at the new interfaces for their "got to have" Office products? Maybe good, maybe not, but who in their right corporate business mind would foist yet another learning curve on their entire company for yet another interface?

    Considering Microsoft has never really cared for the rest of the world (in my opinion), their entire corporate mentality must reverse field, not something I'm sure they're even capable of... consider the latest rantings by Ballmer about a peek under the Microsoft covers about why they really forged the Suse/Linux deal. More evidence Microsoft continues to be about controlling, not collaborating. Does Microsoft even have the personnel capable of shifting their mindset? Time will tell.

    Microsoft's stranglehold on the economy may be loosening as technology, distribution of technology, and support for technology become more about the people. That (in my opinion) can be only a good thing for the world.

    (an interesting aside... my editor spellchecker offered Blamer as an alternative spelling for Ballmer... snicker.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geoff lane (93738)
      It's really no different to washing power. Every 6 months washing powder is "NEW AND IMPROVED" and can whiten your whites beyond white... just like they claimed last year.

      It's the same old 10% active ingredient and 90% inert filler.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jarlsberg (643324)
        Well, it's not quite the same, is it? You can't readily use the same old can of washing powder week after week.
        • by Qzukk (229616)
          You can't readily use the same old can of washing powder week after week.

          I don't really want my whites white beyond white, that's kind of hard on the eyes, so I just take a few specks of dust from the can every week when I wash my laundry. It's lasted me 8 years so far!
      • by Zangief (461457) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:30AM (#16930088) Homepage Journal
        Whiter than white? Like #GGGGGG?

        (old joke, I know).
        • by alexhs (877055)
          Whiter than white? Like #GGGGGG?

          (old joke, I know).


          From an old Slashdoter, I guess :P We're in a 64-bit era ! It would be #GGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG now !
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by doughrama (172715)
        Washing detergent that's "new and improved" is not meant to necessarily to "sell" the consumer on the product. Though it's an added bonus.

        Companies that produce the staples, soap, razors, etc... Have to play games with their products to keep their prices reasonable (profitable.) For example, Walmart expect that you will lower the price of your product by x percentage every six months to a year. And with Walmart, you will, or they will drop your product and go with a company that will reduce their prices. Wh
      • by owlnation (858981)

        It's really no different to washing power.

        Yes, but they haven't gone full circle like the Washing Powder people yet. By adding lots of whiteners they created the new and improved varieties of Washing Powder. These washed whiter than Brand X. However, if you take your now redundant whiteners free Brand X and remarket it as Washing Powder for colors... then you go full circle and sell twice. Which is exactly what the Proctor and Gamble's did.

        So why not with software? Microsoft Bob... you know, for kids!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sBox (512691)
      At the past two companies I've worked for, we've found that OfficeXP has a good enough feature set for our users. Office2K was buggy and crashed, Office2K3 was an added expense for features we didn't even need with XP. About the only reason to upgrade would be for security patches or if you are in an audited environment, which most small and medium size companies are not. Outside of an audited environment, the only way I can see an upgrade is to foist an interface change on Office and sell it via the cha
      • by Moby Cock (771358) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:42AM (#16930286) Homepage
        His CIO tells him to shut up and go golfing?

        ;)
      • by smilindog2000 (907665) <bill@billrocks.org> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:43AM (#16930318) Homepage
        Upgrading Office isn't about getting new features. It's about being able to read the new .doc and .ppt files that you get from other companies in your e-mail. I use Open Office for this, thus breaking the endless cycle of unneeded upgrades. However, I have to deal with font-mismatches, and occasional glitches, like embedded Visual Basic macros that don't work. I haven't seen a really innovative feature in Word/Power Point/Excel in years. There was nothing wrong with Office 97.
        • by smallpaul (65919) <paulNO@SPAMprescod.net> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:47AM (#16931418)

          Upgrading Office isn't about getting new features. It's about being able to read the new .doc and .ppt files that you get from other companies in your e-mail.

          Microsoft has gone out of its way to provide file format compatibility from Office 2000 through 2007: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/924074 [microsoft.com] .

          People who complain about Microsoft's constant backwards-incompatible file format changes tend to be people who haven't used office seriously in a decade. Look around this thread. You'll find many people who have been using Office 2000 for 6 years with few compatibility problems. I know that I frequently pass files between Office 2000 at home and Office XP at work with no problems.

          In the last decade, Microsoft has incremented its file format at roughly the same rate as OpenOffice/StarOffice. They've provided plugins to allow older versions to work. When they've incremented, the new file formats are better than the old ones in almost every conceivable way. The 2007 file formats are more reliable, more open and more feature rich.

          I'm in NO SENSE a Microsoft advocate, and in fact am switching my computers to Mac. But that doesn't mean that I'm going to let BS go unchallenged. Truth is truth.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by gEvil (beta) (945888)
            There are instances of backwards compatibility issues, even though Microsoft claims the file formats are the same. I recently received a Word document from someone that had a table that spanned 5 pages. The first page appeared fine, but the table was then truncated on pages 2 through 5. Essentially, it ran off the bottom of the page and started on the next page further down the table than it should have (ex, page 1:a,b,c,d; page 2:e,f,g,h [table cells running off the bottom of the page]; page 3:k,l,m,n [run
          • by aaronl (43811) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @03:23PM (#16937006) Homepage
            MS claims a lot of other things that aren't true, too. The truth is that Office formats are *mostly* compatible between versions. There are parser differences that cause Office products to fail to read complex documents between versions on occasion. I have trouble reading documents from Office2003 in Office2000 suite products. I have infrequent problems reading Office97 files in Office2000, and have frequent trouble reading Office98 (Mac) files on Office2000.

            People that seriously use Office frequently see compatibility problems. It's the occasional users, like you, that don't see the issues.

            FWIW, the filters that MS has sponsered for OpenDocument are terrible, and I can't use OfficeML because most people can't read it without downloading additional software. Besides, if I'm going to consider switching products from Office2000/DOC to Office2007/XML, I might as well save 500$/person and just switch to OpenOffice/OpenDocument.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Microsoft is about selling a product, not providing customer satisfaction.
      I feel I need to add, that in most businesses selling a product provides customer satisfaction. However, such is the case with monopolies, that providing customer satisfaction is no longer a requirement, or a much less fulfilled requirement.
    • Therein lies Microsoft's problem -- each new iteration of their software all of a sudden must render their older generation software "not good enough", giving the lie to all earlier claims about previous generations of product. This is the classical Microsoft business model. Microsoft is about selling a product, not providing customer satisfaction.

      And it's the same thing that causes a lukewarm PC market. You only need the new PCs if you need the new software. You only need the new software if it has someth

    • by Mr_Silver (213637)

      Therein lies Microsoft's problem -- each new iteration of their software all of a sudden must render their older generation software "not good enough", giving the lie to all earlier claims about previous generations of product. This is the classical Microsoft business model. Microsoft is about selling a product, not providing customer satisfaction.

      To be fair, this is the business model that applies to more that just Microsoft and more than just the software industry.

    • by 4of12 (97621)

      I agree there's a logical inconsistency when
      old_version = current_version;
      current_version++;
      happens.

      Fortunately for Microsoft, most consumers are so jaded by the onslaught of advertisement they're more than happy to forget that Windows 95 is the Best Operating System Ever.

      However, more difficult than overcoming the "this version is better" switcheroo is, IMHO, the "my version is Good Enough©".

      Good Enough© has won contests against worthy contenders such as "New and Improved" and "Technolog

    • by Weedlekin (836313)
      "each new iteration of their software all of a sudden must render their older generation software "not good enough", giving the lie to all earlier claims about previous generations of product. This is the classical Microsoft business model."

      It's actually a classical monopoly business model where company's only competition is prior versions of its own products, and customers are told what they can have instead of being sold something they actually want. It tends to work excellently in the long term when one
    • by rucs_hack (784150)
      "Therein lies Microsoft's problem -- each new iteration of their software all of a sudden must render their older generation software "not good enough", giving the lie to all earlier claims about previous generations of product."

      Much as I hate to be in any way seen to be siding with microsoft, that's *every* closed source vendors way of doing things, not just microsofts.

      Open source people do it to, it's just that since we don't have to charge for our products, we just say 'go grab the new stuff, it's much b
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      You hit the nail on the head. Not only is it a question of convincing people to want the new product, it's convincing anyone who's made Office a platform to change platforms. I wrote a system for my company in Access (see side note below), which we'll use until a year and change from now when it will re-architected in Java as we grow. All the users are running Office 2003 right now, and I grit my teeth and pay the $400 Microsoft tax on every new workstation for a bunch of features we rarely use and a few
  • Why upgrade? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Karzz1 (306015) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:09AM (#16929828) Homepage
    "Many large businesses will have Office 2007 delivered as part of existing IT contracts but small business and individual consumers will need persuading to make the change."

    So, is this an admission by MS that there really is no compelling reason for an upgrade? What I mean is, if someone has to be persuaded to buy it, what is the reason they would need/want it?
    • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:21AM (#16929962)
      Office 97 - The last M$ Office you needed to buy. I've been running my copy for 10 years and it still does everything I need.
      • That's not possible. It's been well documented by slashbots that you are forced to upgrade Office and Windows with each version that is released. You are clearly a liar because slashbots are well known for their journalistic integrity and would never make up stories about Microsoft on the spot or talk about things they know nothing about.
      • Office 97 doesn't support Unicode natively (it's important if your language uses Cyrillic or Arabic script). So Office 2000 is minimum.
        • im just downloading openoffice becuase excel2000 only lets you search one worksheet at a time and i have a workbook with 600 sheets in it, and i need to find some text somewhere. apparently this feature was only introduced in office 2k3 so i'm hoping to god openoffice can do it.

          besides, all this "office97 has all the features anyone would need" stuff is only backed up by a bunch of individual anecdotes. of course there are features in offices later than 97 that people need. slashdot is always flooded wit
        • Office 2000 is actually quite good. Thankfully I have a couple (legal) copies of it. The transition from Office 2000 to openoffice.org is not too harsh as well (except powerpoint with video animations, unfortunately).
      • Office 97 - The last M$ Office you needed to buy. I've been running my copy for 10 years and it still does everything I need.

        Except interoperate with Office <insert newer version here>.

    • Re:Why upgrade? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jekler (626699) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:05AM (#16930674)

      The need to compel people to adopt a solution is not, in itself, an argument that the solution is unnecessary. Applying game theory, even given a dominant strategy consumers may actually choose the weaker strategy because they lack the cognitive level required to understand which strategy is better.

      Many consumers will choose what is familiar over what is better, even given a clear-cut advantage. For example, many dial-up users will refuse to switch to a broadband connection, even if the offer has all of the following properties:

      • Equal or lesser price
      • Equal or greater reliability/uptime
      • More bandwidth
      • Less latency

      This type of decision making can also be observed in solar panel sales. A consumer who can afford a $25,000 solar panel setup and has the government offer a $25,000 subsidy (effectively paying $0 for a lifetime reduction of 80% of their energy bill), will still not have it installed. This behavior is a result of 3 related fallacies. The "Burden of Proof", "Appeal to Tradition", and "Fallacy of Pride".

      Burden of Proof - It is much harder for Microsoft to prove Office 97 is inferior to Office 2007 than it is for a user of Office 97 to prove Office 2007 doesn't meet their needs as effectively as Office 97 does. This is because Microsoft does not know the needs of the user in question, only the user does, and therefore the burden of proof is on the person making the assessment.

      Appeal to Tradition fallacy - This is what I've always had and it has always worked for me, therefore it must be the dominant strategy.

      Fallacy of Pride - People want to believe the initial choice they made was intelligent. Changing strategies would imply that their previous choice was not intelligent. Therefore, the intelligent choice is to not change strategies.

      • Many consumers will choose what is familiar over what is better, even given a clear-cut advantage.

        While I find your article very insightful, and well worth the +5 it has earned (and I've saved it because I like your arguments), you miss a point. You don't discuss an analysis of needs verses true cost of the upgrade.

        The only reason I moved from MSO97 to MSO2000 is that I needed to make that move to do VB6 software development for customers. I've stayed with MSO2000 since because it offers everything I

  • Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BCW2 (168187) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:11AM (#16929850) Journal
    A business survey a few years ago (3?) showed that over 60% of businesses were still running Win 2K and had NO plans to switch to XP. This is an ongoing problem for M$. More and more businesses are taking the "if it aint broke, don't fix it" approach to software. Cost control is the most important thing and if what they have does what they need they will not spend a nickle for the sake of change. There is no compelling reason to go through the constant upgrade cycle just to help M$ bottom line. This seems to be true for businesses of any size.
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      More and more businesses are taking the "if it aint broke, don't fix it" approach to software.

            I can't wait until some brilliant marketing person comes up with a plan to "break" the software through a service pack/worm or whatever. Then they'll switch you to a yearly lease for the upgrade, to keep the income stream flowing.
      • by Dan Ost (415913)
        If someone did that and it was provable, then there would be one hell of a class action suit.
    • by Moby Cock (771358)
      Office 2007 offers a new wrinkle in MS software. They have changed the GUI for all the apps. This is going to require some re-training. Unless there are clear must-have features in Office 2007, there is a real reason to NOT switch.

      OOo may get a few nmore users out of this.
  • In the old times, you strived to prove to your customers how good your products were and how intelligent and talented your workers are. These days you have to show that your products are garbage, your workers are dumb and inept, and you yourself have no talent whatsoever for running the company. I suppose that is what they call "truth in advertising".
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:18AM (#16929918) Homepage
    Honestly. there is ZERO reason to upgrade from even Office 2000. Outlook 2000 is 10 times faster than outlook 2003 and god help us on the mess that is outlook 2007.

    Every time there is an "upgrade" in the company all of us in IT cringe.... Office incompataibility between versions is legendary (2000-2003 was a nightmare.. some images showing up backwards in documents, scripts not working and the dreaded warning on every launch has served to only numb users to real warning dialogs.)

    Honestly, I can do things on windows 2000 and Office 2000 in the corperate environment that you can do on the latest and greates... but with far less expense in both hardware and software. And yes you still can keep it secure, there are apps to do that as well.
    • Honestly. there is ZERO reason to upgrade from even Office 2000. Outlook 2000 is 10 times faster than outlook 2003 and god help us on the mess that is outlook 2007.

      I wouldn't say ZERO.

      Outlook 2000 has the annoying habit of opening all your reminders in separate windows whereas 2002 has them all in one. When you have as many reminders and tasks as me, then you quickly appreciate that.

      I would love Outlook 2003 over 2002 (and especially 2000) for the saved search folders and the fact that it's better at

    • by bmajik (96670) <matt@mattevans.org> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:00AM (#16930584) Homepage Journal
      1. Cached Exchange Mode. All versions of outlook without this are absolute unusable garbage. This feature was what allowed me to stop using PINE+IMAP at work.

      2. RPC over HTTPS. This is _huge_ for mobile workers.

      I happen to really like Outlook 2007. I've not noticed any speed problems with it. They've done a good job since OL2k of removing possible high-latency calls on UI threads, making the client much more interactive in a variety of situations. In 2000 Outloook+Exchange were unusable. I remember the exchange team having an "SP1 ship party" and thinking I'd run over there and choke all of them, perhaps screaming "get back in your f@#$king offices and fix this bullshit until i can read email as quickly and easily as me and _50000_ other students could using pine+sendmail on a 2 proc dec alpha"

      Outlook and Exchange have gotten _much_ better since then. I can use them without wanting to kill people, which has left me free to be angry about other Microsoft intolerables, like DRM, windows stealing focus, and long path name support :)

  • Hmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by finkployd (12902) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:18AM (#16929924) Homepage
    When you need to struggle to convince people that they NEED to buy your new product, and that the old one is not good enough, perhaps the problem is with you. Or perhaps the problem is that your customers know that in 2010 Microsoft will be trashing the software they are talking up now in a pathetic attempt to get you to upgrade again.

    You know, there is only so many pointless features you can cram into programs that basically replace a typewriter and calculator (with graph paper) respectively. I know very few people who need more than Office 95 had to offer.

    Finkployd
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ohearn (969704)
      The spelling and grammar checks in Word have gotten much better over the years (don't think the grammar check was even added until Office 97), but other than that not much has really changed.

      I swapped from WordPerfect to Office 97 when in college because that was what most of my professors demanded. I swapped from Office 97 to Office XP simply because my wife already had a copy and that was what I had at work to make taking work home easier. I have had no reason to "upgrade" again.

      There have been several
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      This is a problem with all software.
      Software just doesn't wear out. It is not like manufactured goods. You don't have to replace it every few years.
      That is one area that games have an advantage. You get tired of a game so eventually you want a new one.
      Eventually the market will reach a saturation point. Everybody that needs a certain program will have it. Word 2000 is good enough. Word 2003 is good enough. Heck for a lot of people OpenOffice is good enough.
      The software industry is praying that the Intel ISA
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:18AM (#16929928)
    'Our business model of course allows you to keep using Office 2003 - the software doesn't really expire,'

    ...Yet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by H8X55 (650339)
      Actually, I was thinking the same thing. How much longer before their license subscription service offered to big businesses is their business model for home users as well. Pay $399 USD for 36 months of Office, and get upgrades from free. Month 37? Oh, that's another $399 licensing fee.

      I've been using Office since '95, was very pleased with Office 2K, Office XP (2001? 2002?) wasn't bad. Office 2K3 is a little bloated for my taste, but the point is, I'd rather keep using 2K for FREE than pay the Mic
    • The problem is that just to install the software, you have to go through their crazy piracy check, which depends on contacting them after you have already bought the software.

      If you want to reinstall Office 2003 in ten years, how can you be sure they will still do that for you? If they refuse, it will be bad PR, but MS already gets plenty of bad PR and it doesn't stop them from doing what they do.

      I'm not sure there would be any legal recourse if, many years after you bought the software, they refused to ac
  • Hardware companies compete with their own products too.
    I once worked with a company that was getting increasing competition from their own hardware being sold on eBay.
    They started offering discounts for returning the old hardware when upgrading. And then they destroyed the returned items.

    At least the EULA does not allow you to pass the license to another licensee once you upgrade - that would be a Microsoft nightmare. Each new version would overflow the market with very cheap licenses for the previous one.
    • by Carewolf (581105)
      Well, the EULA on this point is invalid in Europe. Still most people don't buy used software. There just isn't much tradition for it.
  • by Josh Lindenmuth (1029922) <joshlindenmuth@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:21AM (#16929974) Journal
    From a sales standpoint, Microsoft is pretty smart with Office. They always make sure it's 100% backwards compitable, but add enough changes to the .doc and .xls format to ensure that a document from the new version cannot always be opened in a prior version. At the companies I've worked for, this has typically been the driving force of upgrading.

    There's nothing more annoying than receiving an e-mail with a Word 2003 document and not being able to open it in Word 2000 ... after a while there's real benefit in upgrading vs. replying to hundreds of messages with "Can you please save this in an earlier version of Word, I haven't upgraded yet". As long as Microsoft can give away or sell enough O2007 copies to large corporate accounts, there will be a trickle down effect to the rest of corporate America.
    • by fruey (563914)
      Totally with you on that.

      It seems in fact that an old document that you open with a new version remains backwards compatible, but a fresh document where editing started in the new version will not load in older versions.

      Another good reason for open formats. OpenOffice, anyone?
    • by bri2000 (931484)
      Although it can also work the other way around. I work for a law firm and what a law firm (at least the type of law firm I work for) does is produce Word documents. Our clients and other law firms we send them to have to be able to open them (pdfs are generally not used as they're much more difficult to mark-up) so we stick with Word 2000.
    • by mspohr (589790)
      That's why I use OpenOffice. It does a good job of opening documents from all versions of MS Word... even when MS Word itself is having problems.

      The company I do a lot of work for recently "upgraded" from Word 97 to Word 2003. I just stayed with OpenOffice and no one was the wiser (and I didn't have problems with document compatibility that my colleagues experienced... in fact, OpenOffice helped them sort out a few incompatibilities).

  • "Our business model of course allows you to keep using Office 2003 - the software doesn't really expire, " said Mr Capossela, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Business Division.

    I imagine that they would like it if Office did expire--they could really suck money out of their customers if the software expired through DRM-style technology.

  • Business Model (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kiaser Zohsay (20134) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:26AM (#16930022)
    Our business model of course allows you to keep using Office 2003 - the software doesn't really expire
    Well, that's awfully damned gracious of your business model, to grant us permission to continue using software that we paid for. Does your business model allow me wipe your bloatware off of my hard drive and install the OS of my choice? No? Oh, that's too bad. Well, try again next decade. Thanks for stopping by.

    Your "business model" is a hold-over from the stone age, and does not have the authority to "allow" or "disallow" me to do anything. Any company/industry that forgets that deserves the fate they get from it.
    • by mochan_s (536939)

      Actually software resale is not allowed anymore I believe. Most sample CDs for music production does not allow you to resell their software. Of course, ebay enforces so they're as good as law in the used market.

      I personally hate Word. You can tell an ugly word document a million miles away. I hate Excel since people try to make everything in Excel though the vbscript is kinda nice. Don't even get me started on Powerpoint - it's so braindead!.

      There is so much potential in project and frontpage and other

  • Not good enough? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chthon (580889) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:27AM (#16930046) Homepage Journal

    "'One of the biggest challenges... is to fight that perception that old versions of software are good enough,' said Microsoft's Chris Capossela. Office 2007 goes on sale to business on 30 November, the same date new operating system Vista is

    This from the company which probably wrote the book on deploying software when it's 'good enough'.

  • If the old software isn't good enough now, was it good enough when I bought it? Furthermore, is the new software good enough? And by what date will it no longer be good enough? I don't think any business has needs that change so much that they need a new set of office apps after a few years. In fact, if they are doing things well, why change anything at all? The only reason you "need" to stay current is because Microsoft discontinues support on the older software. If NT support continuted, for example, I am certain that various companies would have been relieved to leave older production systems as is.
    • by BenjyD (316700)
      But what is 'good enough' changes. A text editor with word wrap would seem incredible to someone who's only used a typewriter, but people expect a little more than that from a word processor these days.
    • Absolutely.
      Last year, I was working on a General Electric product based on NT4 that we had to port to 2K. NT was considered "good enough" by the team and the change was made only because they were near the end of their licenses stock for the new manufactured equipments and most of the deployed ones are still on NT.
  • ...between "Doing it right" vs. "Doing just enough". I think Microsoft's "mindshare" in the software world is definitely doing well and they have little to worry about where the majority of the computing public is concerned. The typical person just wants to use a computer and be told that they are good at it. In reality, they might be good at applications, but they don't have an inkling how to use a computer. That works well for Microsoft as it means that they don't need to be "the best" in terms of wel
    • by SABME (524360) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:05AM (#16930672)
      I used to believe this too.

      I believed that all you had to do was give people the chance to learn the basics of what they were doing with a PC, the basics of what is actually happening when they open a file or copy a file, or start a program, and some magic light would go on in their heads and they'd "get it."

      Then I started working in desktop support.

      This was back in 1990. There was no web and no email at work (except for a few executives who used Procomm to connect at 33.6 kbps to the corporate mail server). Most companies had adopted PCs for use, but many, like mine, were still integrating them into their daily business tasks. We were experimenting with this newfangled thing called "desktop publishing," and the accounting department was debating the relative merits of Excel for Windows 3.1 vs. Lotus 123 for DOS. Some holdouts insisted on using Quattro Pro.

      I was young and idealistic. I thought that the only problem most people had was lack of familiarity with these new, powerful tools. I thought a little education would fix it.

      Boy was I wrong.

      I gave seminars, I took time to explain what was happening every time I fixed a problem for someone. I wrote simple memos with pictures -- "How to Format A Floppy Disk" was one of my masterworks, as was "There are two kinds of hard disks -- those that have failed and those that will fail. So make backups!". For five years, I tried, and I believed I could make a difference.

      I gave up and switched jobs. But I learned something from the experience.

      I learned that the problem is twofold: 1.) the vast majority of the population doesn't care how a computer works and 2.) the vast majority also lacks the mentality required to understand what's happening inside a computer. I'm not saying these are unintelligent people; I'm saying there's a certain mindset that you need to understand what's happening in your computer, and you either have it or you don't. Just like some people really get off on balancing a ledger, or closing a sale. I've worked with janitors who went from not knowing how to turn the machine on to writing Macromedia Director presentations in less than a year, and I've worked with lawyers who were baffled at the complexities of saving a file to a floppy (and who never seemed to quite get the hang of it).

      Call me cynical, but my conclusion is that's the way it is, and that's the way it always will be, regardless of how much education people receive.
  • and that is, because, they are good enough !

    doh.

    they are already known, their quirks and strong points are known, vulnerabilities known, things to do and not to do on them known.

    the office software circle havent been providing any revolutionary stuff in regard to features for a long time, so why undertake the period/downtime of adaptation to new software for its bells & whistles.
  • Well, since I'm a forward-looking person, I think that Office 2007 is already not good enough for me, so I'm going to wait until Office 2011 comes out.
  • ...Microsoft's battle to convince users they need to buy new software...

    I wonder why a user has to be convinced that they need to buy new software if the software they are currently using is "not good enough." If one is missing some functionality, which functionality exists in another piece of software, the availability of that software will be known by word of mouth and through all other means available in this very connected world.

    I just do not understand why someone has to be convinced...why?

    For t

  • by MarkWatson (189759) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:36AM (#16930174) Homepage
    I have blogged about this: I would be a much happier (occasional) customer of Microsoft's if they would support one version of Windows and Office at a reasonable yearly subscription price.

    This would remove the drive for forced upgrades through new features that I don't care about. I would consider $40/year for Windows and $100/year for office to be reasonable. Buying a new computer would get you a 1 year subscription.

    Unfortunately, Microsoft's business model requires constant growth (I was once a house guest for a weekend in a friend's home when another house guest was a Microsoft exec and his family. He said that Microsoft had to "grow a new Disney" in size every year for their business model to work). I don't think that $40/year from every legal Windows user would satisfy Microsoft's appetite.

    On the other hand, look at Apple: I occasionally use OS X (Linux is my main development and writing platform) and I don't mind paying for a $130 OS X upgrade every 18 months or so - one reason is that OS X upgrades actually run faster -- great for older Macs.

    Microsoft needs to get off of the forced upgrade path.
    • $100/year for office to be reasonable.

      You gotta be kidding me! I get the full version of Office for $20 through my employer. Perfectly legit. If it weren't for that, I'd still be on Office 2000.
  • by BortQ (468164) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:38AM (#16930208) Homepage Journal
    Today I happened to overhear a salesman going through his bit to a customer "and you'll want to include Office, which you can et a version of for $250." It too bad that customers are still under that impression. Open Office needs to get the kind of marketing push that Firefox has had. It's good enough for most people. If the people actually knew they could get a free office package they way more would opt for it. Instead, you have the salespeople padding their margins selling overpriced office software year-after-year.
  • Good enough?: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by popeyethesailor (325796) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:39AM (#16930246)
    I see that lots of people comment the current office versions are good enough - indeed they are to the casual user who sparingly uses them. However to the power users and developer community, they've been pretty lousy till now. Server-side document generation has been pathetic; weird and expensive COM-based controls, archaic limitations, and lousy templating support.

    The ribbon UI may have its uses; but I guess its just a gimmick. The real value for this release is in the server-side development, XML stuff that's gone in. And this is pretty tough to market. Still, people will buy it, since the default format's changed; and the upgrade treadmill cant be avoided.

    OpenOffice and its cousins missed the bus; the minimum they needed to do was atleast match MS Office's UI performance. Sadly, even MSO2K3 spanks OO. When the competition figures out how to make a snappy, feature-rich, stable product, they'll trouble MS.
    • by lifebouy (115193)

      OpenOffice and its cousins missed the bus; the minimum they needed to do was atleast match MS Office's UI performance. Sadly, even MSO2K3 spanks OO. When the competition figures out how to make a snappy, feature-rich, stable product, they'll trouble MS.

      Obviously, you don't live on the same planet as the rest of us. OpenOffice surpassed MSOffice with OpenOffice 1.0 as far as UI, and keeps on widening the gap with each release. For the most part, functions work as advertised, which is something MS Office h

    • by sootman (158191)
      I see that lots of people comment the current office versions are good enough - indeed they are to the casual user who sparingly uses them. However to the power users and developer community, they've been pretty lousy till now.

      I disagree on your distinction between 'casual' and 'power' user--I know plenty of people who can make Excel walk, talk, and run a 3-minute mile--but that aside, the current version of Office (or 2000, or 97) is "good enough" for literally 95%+ of the people out there. Maybe 98%. Mayb
  • Some of our external partners will get the new MS Office as part of their service contracts, and our administrative office will buy it because it makes the PHB's feel at the technological frontier. Both of these will start sending us documents that cannot be read with our old MS Office, and we will be forced to upgrade.

    Same procedure as last upgrade. Same procedure as every upgrade.

    We end up paying Microsoft not for new features we don't need, but for being allowed to cooperate with our partners.

    This is w
  • But they will make damned sure that it wont run 'right'.
  • Win95 + Office95 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wandazulu (265281) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:47AM (#16930362)
    I do some consulting/pc maintenance for a small company that still runs their machines on Win95 and uses Office95 for their work, and the combo still runs fine. The majority of their "business" apps are web based, and Firefox runs fine on it, and as far as anyone is concerned, as long as the document comes off the printer correctly, no one cares what program created it.

    It's interesting to go there; it's like time has stood still since 1995 and you realize that "good enough" can go back pretty darn far.
  • Poles apart. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ColaMan (37550) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:48AM (#16930378) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft: "One of the biggest challenges... is to fight that perception that old versions of software are good enough"

    Behold, the difference between open and closed source software.

    From http://www.linuxhq.com/kernel/ [linuxhq.com]
    Version 2.6 * Current: 2.6.18, 20-Sep-2006
    Version 2.4 * Current: 2.4.33, 11-Aug-2006
    Version 2.2 * Current: 2.2.26, 25-Feb-2004
    Version 2.0 * Current: 2.0.40, 08-Feb-2004

    So, 2.6 and 2.4 are actively maintained, with 2.2 released in '99 with updates to '04, and 2.0 being updated for over 8 years, since 1996. And I'll wager that there's been no more updates since then for those two kernels simply because it *is* good enough.

    Need I also mention the little bit of text that is present in almost *any* F/OSS software update that pretty much says "Hey, if you're current version's working fine for you, that's great. Don't think we're forcing this on you."
  • by radarsat1 (786772) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:58AM (#16930534) Homepage
    This just goes to show what I've suspected for a while... there is a problem with the software industry in general. The goals of a software company ultimately have a contradiction with the goals of software itself: The software company must fight its own products.

    This is one of the reasons that, although I am a programmer by nature and by trade, I have a really hard time with the idea of starting up some kind of software company. I'd rather other people take those risks and hire me. As I see it, there are two problems with starting a software company:

    1) Your product is inherently easily copied, giving it low value no matter how good it is. In fact, the more popular it is, the more likely it will be pirated, thus the better it is the LESS value it potentially has. This is definitely counter-intuitive.
    2) Once you create a product that does what it needs to do and is easy to use, what then? Software eventually always reaches a plateau, and it becomes a question of "now what?" At this point software companies start to add "features" that bloat the software bundle and aren't wanted by customers, in the hopes that they've at least acquired a dedicated customer base that will buy the new version simply because it is "the newest version".

    No, as I see it, it's better to do software in your spare time, and release it for free. Not because I'm some kind of altruist, but just because I see it as being a much more viable way to focus on the "product" rather than the "profits".

    To clarify -- I'm certainly not any kind of anti-profit advocate. I'm a capitalist. I just don't see software and other information-based services as fitting into a capitalist model very well. As soon as you are a software company, you must focus on getting customers to upgrade, rather than on making sure they have a good experience with your product. Any industry in which it's in a company's interests to make sure its own customers are having a bad experience is in contradiction with itself, as far as I can see. I think the same thing goes for anti-virus products -- it's in their interests to make sure there are viruses around. They have built up their flagship products on the existance of something evil. There is simply something wrong with that.

    This is why I tend to trust open-source products. I know that they have no reason to exist except to "get the job done", and therefore they do what they are meant to, and nothing else.

    • What happened to the days when software vendors released new versions when their user base told them (through numerous feature requests) that it was time? Now, we have the cart before the horse. Microsoft (and others) went from implementing business requirements in their software, to telling users what their requirements should be. It's a darn shame...
  • It seems to me that a lot of effort is being to made to push MS Office upgrades, when most of the money comes from MS WIndows OEM and general site licenses. Most users will upgrade with site license. A few will buy their copy with the computer. I suspect most will not upgrade without a shift to Vista.

    With these assumption, MS might be tying both upgrades together. The upgrade to vista is likely more of an issue as it seems that the OS availability is more tied to long term licensing. So it would seem

  • Your path begins here [tug.org]. Praise be to His Almighty Knuthiness and Blessed Angel Lamport.
  • I've been using OpenOffice so long it's hard to go back to MSFT products, even when working at a customer site where they use it. That's mildly amusing because it was sort of a rocky transition when I switched to OO.

    A lot of users get comfortable with what they're using, whether it's OO, Office or another product and giving them a compelling reason to change is no small challenge. And then there are people like me who think the $400 price tag to go through that transition pain is a laugher.

  • As a matter of fact, for good 95% of the people using it, it is good enough. Win2k was pretty much the last OS that brought any measurable improvement over its predecessors in the Windows line of OSs. And even those improvements (over NT4) only really mattered to you if you're a gamer.

    For the Office line, the matter is even more blatant. There has been no really tangible improvement since Office97. Sure, fine, there have been a few tweaks and the macros work heaps different now. But does that matter to the
  • by sootman (158191)
    "One of the biggest challenges... is to fight that perception that old versions of software are good enough."

    He misspelled 'fact.'

    I, like many users, am coming up on my 10 year anniversary of using Office 97. I wouldn't be surprised to find myself still using it in 2017. All it'll do is get quicker and quicker on newer hardware.
  • 'One of the biggest challenges... is to fight that perception that old versions of software are good enough,'

    That should be an easy sell for anyone who's used Microsoft's rubbish.

    The hard sell is that the next version down the pike WILL be 'good enough'.

  • Why do you think they stopped using version numbers? It's obvious that Office 2003 is out of date. It's almost 4 years old.
  • from 'dows 95 to 98 earlier this year, when Mozilla dropped compatibility in firefox 2.
  • I loath Ms Office. As an MIS, I cannot justify the liscencing cost to roll out new versions. Version incompatability was the straw that broke my back back in 2000.

    Contrast that with the cost of explaining that OO does in fact have the feature that they are used to. Finding that feature and teaching it to the user. OO wins everytime.

    If only there was a windows based Outlook Replacement. (Evolution looks perfect but on win32 it's just not ready.) Thunderbird needs a bigger staff. Google, can we get a litt

  • Lamport's LaTeX User Guide (1994) is good enough for me. Doesn't expire either. Now get off my lawn!
  • Persuading consists of breaking backward compatibility by setting all the defaults to save in formats that earlier versions cannot read as a convenience to the user. Then pop-up big warning boxes that some features may not be preserved if you insist on saving in an older format.

    While I haven't run MSO2007 myself yet, I've seen this in so many previous MSO updates that I would actually be surprised if this is not the case yet again.

  • FTA:
    Our business model of course allows you to keep using Office 2003 - the software doesn't really expire

    Gee thats *really* kind of them. The way it's worded suggests that if their business model didn't allow you to use Office 2003 they would have no problems stopping you using older versions of Office.
  • Convince those of your customers who use and like your existing products that they're dinosaurs -- creaking old fossils. Small brained relics from the ancient past. Make a big ad campaign based on that theme! They'll upgrade out of sheer embarrassment! I know that if I bought a company's product and then that company told me I was an old fool for liking it, I'd be eager to upgrade to their newer product.

Whatever is not nailed down is mine. Whatever I can pry up is not nailed down. -- Collis P. Huntingdon, railroad tycoon

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