Microsoft has released the first beta of its latest Office suite, codenamed Office 10, but only for Windows 98, ME and 2000, writes Matthew Burgess.
Office 10 is the stepping stone between the current Office series and Microsoft's .Net initiative, which will see the package move towards a more modular structure and an Internet-distribution model. Pointers to what can be expected in Office.Net can be found in Office 10's enhanced XML support and the way in which the component programs can share data. If a business client's name is typed into Word, for example, the relevant contact details are pulled from Outlook.
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The suite also includes integrated voice recognition, online collaboration and improved crash-recovery facilities.
Although the beta will not run on Windows 95, this does not mean the final release will not support it, but it can be seen as a warning to those still using the ageing operating system. Windows 95 is by no means obsolete as an enterprise product, but sticking with Windows 95 is steadily becoming less of an option if customers want to take advantage of the latest applications.
Analyst Mat Hanrahan from Bloor Research commented, "Windows 95 is an old operating system and not an ideal environment for a product that incorporates a high level of Internet connectivity. There are other issues, such as its lack of support for USB, that makes it increasingly unsuitable for next-generation software. There is still a large installed base of Windows 95 users, not all of whom want to be pushed into upgrading."
A Microsoft spokesman claimed that the issue is irrelevant. He said, "By the time Office 10 is released the majority of our customers will have already upgraded from Windows 95."