RealTime IT News

Office 2007 Delayed Again

Microsoft has announced yet another delay in the release of Office 2007 based on feedback from beta testing, but has not said just when the application suite will be released.

The company's statement was brief and to the point: "Based on internal testing and beta 2 feedback around product performance, we are revising our development schedule to deliver the 2007 Microsoft Office system by the end of year 2006, with broad general availability in early 2007. Feedback on quality and performance will ultimately determine the exact dates.

The initial plan, announced in March, was to have the product ready by this October and offer early access to corporate customers, with general retail availability in January 2007, around the same time Windows Vista is supposed to ship.

Citing beta feedback struck Joe Wilcox, senior analyst with Jupiter Research, as unusual, as he has found the second beta of Office 2007 to be "very solid."

But, he added, Office 2007 is ambitious. "You have a new file format, a new user interface. Changing the interface has a lot of impact. Think of all the add-ons to Office that mimic the user interface so they're familiar. Well, now that UI has changed," he said.

Since Microsoft has not said how long Office is being delayed, it's hard to gauge the impact of the delay. However, Wilcox pointed out that shipping it to customers in October is rather pointless. "Who's going to test and deploy during the holidays, anyway? It's a non-issue whether it's available to businesses in November or December," he said.

In fact, most customers may have already made their decision by then because the next wave of licensing contracts are up for renewal at the end of July, so potential Office 2007 customers are making a decision now. They could simply buy upgrade protection with their new contract to get Office 2007 some time in the future when they are ready to deploy it.

Then there is the credibility issue, which is an ongoing problem for Microsoft because it continues to set release dates and doesn't meet them. "I think that can erode confidence. At some point, customers will put their foot down. Even if they continue to buy Windows and Office, there's a question of how quickly they buy new versions," said Wilcox.