MS delays Office launch

Microsoft is to delay the launch of Office 2003 to carry out more "improvements" following negative feedback from users beta...

Microsoft is to delay the launch of Office 2003 to carry out more "improvements" following negative feedback from users beta testing the software.

The company had planned to release the latest version of its desktop productivity suite in the summer but will now struggle to meet that deadline. A spokeswoman for Microsoft stressed that the new version of Office 2003 will be a "refresh" of the beta 2 and not a new beta. She said the revised beta will be available as a download in late spring.

Although the refresh will contain "improvements", the spokeswoman would not say what they were or confirm whether the changes were needed because the beta 2 was too buggy. "We want to make sure that the release is as good as it can be," she said, before reiterating that there were "no major issues" with the beta.

The release date will now be pushed back to later in the year.

"We were saying summer, now we are saying late summer," the spokeswoman said, referring to the date when original equipment manufacturers and users on the Software Assurance programme will receive the product.

Tim Jennings, research director at Butler Group, said, "I would broadly welcome the move. It is better to get something out that is right, and with Office 2003 I don't think you have a lot of people waiting on tenterhooks to get it."

Tony Lock, chief analyst at Bloor Research, said delaying the launch to improve the product was "an eminently sensible move" and reflected Microsoft's increasingly customer-centric approach. "One thing software companies have been accused of is not listening to their customers, but for the past 12 months Microsoft has been trying to be more reactive," he said.

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