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Office 2010 Will Have SharePoint Hooks, Analyst Says

Microsoft plans to make a splash by announcing new 2010 products on Wednesday, but IT organizations should check the fine print.

New versions of Microsoft Office, SharePoint, Project and Visio may require a significant jump in infrastructure investment, especially for those organizations still using Office 2003 and other legacy Microsoft products. That's one of the conclusions of a report published on Friday by Directions on Microsoft, which provides consulting services.

Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 will offer advances in collaboration and business functionality, including improvements in data analysis and reporting. However, these improved functionalities may require "coordinated upgrades of multiple products," according to Robert Helm, vice president of research at Directions on Microsoft.

"This latest offering represents an effort to integrate a lot of products together on a common platform and is something only Microsoft could have pulled off," said Helms, in a telephone interview. "It will be a big jump for users, especially those still using older versions of the products, because there will be significant compatibility breaks with new file formats and an increasing dependence on SharePoint for collaboration."

SharePoint 2010 is the key component for IT organizations to consider as Microsoft rolls out its 2010 products, according to Directions on Microsoft.

"The most interesting thing about the Office 2010 wave isn't Office. It's SharePoint," stated a Directions on Microsoft staffer in an e-mail. "SharePoint 2010 is the rallying point for the new Office application versions and the way Microsoft has packaged it, SharePoint is the mother of all dependencies."

According to Helm, SharePoint 2010 becomes the hub and a "prerequisite for collaboration" in larger organizations. To leverage improved SharePoint 2010 features, organizations will need the required on-premises infrastructure, including the latest versions of Windows client and server software installed, according to the report.

"In considering the upgrade, the most important thing for organizations to consider is not where they are going with their technological footprint, but where they coming from," said Helm. "For organizations deploying older [server and desktop] infrastructure, it is not going to be getting any easier to upgrade; and, as time goes on, it is going to get harder."

One such challenge is the move to 64-bit technology. The Directions report noted that the new version of Office includes a 64-bit edition, but it is not compatible with some components, such as macros and add-ins, in older versions. In addition, organizations that want to deploy on premises or have closed SharePoint functionality will have to have 64-bit infrastructure in place.

"Some organizations will be able to leverage the new Office and SharePoint using online access, but many large organizations still don't want to have all of the sensitive data in the cloud," Helm said. "They will need to be running 64-bit along with the latest Windows [client] and server technologies."

He noted that for many enterprise and large organizations, this situation means bringing in third-party, managed-solution partners for implementation.

"I think Microsoft is focused on the right things -- collaboration, business intelligence and consistent user interface across a wide set of applications -- with this offering. And there are some very positive improvements," Helm said. "They may, however, be asking customers to adopt too much [change] too quickly. For the enterprise, this type of new deployment cannot happen overnight and will definitely require significant time and resources."

Microsoft Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 products were released late last month to Microsoft's volume licensing customers. On May 12, Microsoft will start its launch event, signaling the release of those products to business users. Office 2010's release to the general public will follow in June.

About the Author

Herb Torrens is an award-winning freelance writer based in Southern California. He managed the MCSP program for a leading computer telephony integrator for more than five years and has worked with numerous solution providers including HP/Compaq, Nortel, and Microsoft in all forms of media.

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