Analysts advise against upgrading to Office XP

Analysts are advising most IT departments that upgrading to Office XP is not a good idea, saying that it does not offer enough...

Analysts are advising most IT departments that upgrading to Office XP is not a good idea, saying that it does not offer enough additional benefits.

The advice follows a preliminary release of Office XP to Microsoft's key customers and industry partners.

Meta Group programme director Ashim Pal said, "It is not as revolutionary as Microsoft claims. The radical implementation will be the one after XP - which will be based on Microsoft's .NET principles -when the user interface will look more like a portal. You should call it 'xp' not 'XP'," said Pal.

Kevin Lucas, senior research analyst at AMR Research, said, "There are new features that Office users will appreciate when the time comes, but few compelling reasons to spend hard cash now."

One exception is the introduction of a calendar that several users can share, said Lucas. "Some companies have been crying out for this. These are organisations that are heavily team-orientated but don't want to invest in a team management product," he said.

The XP release also includes smart tags - wizards that guide users through finding and using functionality. With a software developer kit, companies can develop customised tags for keywords, helping users send an e-mail to a specific person or find more information on a subject, for example.

Microsoft senior vice president Steven Sinofsky has called XP "the most significant version of Office ever released." To enable Office users to work closer together, Microsoft has introduced SharePoint Team Services, a set of intranet applications. These enable users to build their own sites.

Pal said organisations that have already implemented Office 2000 should not consider installing XP, but companies planning a new version of Office from the third quarter onwards should.

"It's a robust system which is slightly more user-friendly than Office 2000, but there's relatively little to compel people to change existing plans," he said.

Office XP will be available this spring. Microsoft has yet to set pricing and system requirements.

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