Are businesses ready for Office 2010?

Microsoft claims that to get the most from the new Office suite, users need both Windows 7 and Office 2010. But will businesses upgrade?

The launch of Office 2010, marks the next stage in Microsoft's desktop strategy, which began with the availability of Windows 7 last year.

Microsoft claims that to get the most from the new Office suite, users need both Windows 7 and Office 2010. But will businesses upgrade?

Forrester Research's latest data shows that 81% of enterprises are running Office 2007 and 78% support Sharepoint, compared with only 4% using Google Apps.

One-third of survey respondents are planning an upgrade to Office 2010 within the next 12 months, and 26% of users say they will upgrade within two to three years. The research, based on a survey of 115 North American and European businesses shows that 47% of companies are using the integration features in MS Office mainly to support document management.

Office 2010 will be an almost automatic upgrade for many large businesses, especially if they have a Software Assurance subscription from Microsoft, which provides a free upgrade, as part of the licensing agreement.

Dale Vile, research director at Freeform Dynamics, believes many businesses will upgrade as part of a larger desktop refresh programme when they upgrade to Windows 7. But businesses using Sharepoint can take advantage of the integration between Office 2010 and Sharepoint, which may influence their upgrade strategy.

"In Office 2010, if you have Sharepoint in place you get more from the software. In Office 2010 there are harder links between the two," he says.

However, Vile warns that the opportunities to link Office 2010 with Sharepoint could lead to potential problems for IT departments. "We see a big problem with Sharepoint sprawl. By making it easier to interact with Sharepoint in MS Office, businesses could end up with multiple Sharepoint repositories." This can lead to difficulties in compliance and auditing and unnecessary data storage and back-up costs, due to duplication of information, he says.

Switching from MS Office

As for alternatives, research from Freeform Dynamics and Forrester shows that there is little interest in alternatives to Microsoft, such as the web-based Google Docs software. Microsoft responded to Google Docs with its own Office Live, web-based package. While this may appear a compelling development, giving users free access to an online version of MS Office, experts feel businesses are unlikely to switch to the online version.

Vile says, "We see very few cases where businesses are using web clients without running the full MS Office desktop client software as well." With Microsoft Office 2010, Office Live and Office complement each other, he adds.

If Google Docs is not going to cut it in the enterprise, how about open source alternatives? Should budget constrained smaller businesses run OpenOffice instead?

Vile says there is less traction for OpenOffice in the SMB market, because businesses are not confident trying something new. "People are not familiar with OpenOffice," he says.

But in larger organisations, Freeform Dynamics is seeing businesses segment their users. For instance, marketing and accounts need the full MS Office environment, while there are lots of departments where staff mainly work on form editing. "Such people do not really need the full Windows desktop or Office," says Vile, which means IT departments could consider alternatives such as OpenOffice.

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