The Seven Flavors of Office 12

Office 12, now called Office 2007 (any guess when it will ship?), will come in seven versions, and if you thought Microsoft licensing was complicated, just wait till you try and buy this puppy -- your head will spin clear off.

The good news is that the low-end Teacher/Student edition will be available without having to prove you either teach or learn (those that can't do teach so they can buy cheap software). That's nice, and for Microsoft it's probably a way to keep other vendors' productivity suites -- most of which are free -- at bay. But every student I know uses PowerPoint, so the cheapo version is out, as it doesn't have that.

Meanwhile, some people, like analyst Joe Wilcox, believe all this chaos will result in slightly higher prices for enterprises. My bigger worry is that Office 12, I mean 2007, will be more complex than any of its overdone predecessors, harder to use, and more prone to unexplainable failures and inexplicable formatting surprises. I think this is a mistake and I'd rather see all the effort go into one bulletproof Office suite.

Office 2003 Gets Four Snap-ins
There's been a lot of Microsoft Office activity lately, all aimed at delivering new features and tying Office deeper into the overall IT infrastructure. This week Microsoft is tying Office to its Dynamics line of enterprise software (you know, Axtapa, Solomon -- all that stuff Microsoft bought to kill off Oracle and all other high-end vendors). These snap-ins work with Axtapa (now called Microsoft Dynamics AX 3.0) and CRM 3.0 (I have no idea what this used to be called).

If Microsoft can make Office truly the front-end to most business apps, OpenOffice, even at no cost, will never stand a chance.

Six Flavors of Vista (Windows 2007?)
If Office can have seven versions and four snap-ins, why can't Vista have a half a dozen different incarnations? That's the plan according to our friend Mary Jo Foley of Microsoft Watch. Versions range from a starter release aimed at the Third World to Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate, a version for hardcore gamers. I think this is a mistake and would rather see all the effort go into one invincible operating system.

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The news all came out of an inadvertent post on the Microsoft Web site and the software giant is scrambling to dampen the news, arguing that plans may change.

Microsoft Gives Back
Slate, a Web site started by Microsoft, released its 2005 list of the top 60 U.S. philanthropists and there are three Microsoft folks (one current and two ex-employees) on the list. Bill Gates and his wife Melinda were No. 2, while Paul Allen and Charles Simonyi also made the top 60. Other techies of note? Larry Ellison and Andy Grove. Surprisingly Ted Turner, who lectured Gates on the need to give, wasn't on the list. That's what you get for hooking up with AOL!

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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