Woody Leonhard Teaches Microsoft Officeby Woody Leonhard
Based on extensive testing of Office 2000, due to be released in the Spring of 1999, I feel very confident in asserting that Microsoft will continue to roll over the Office suite market. In most corporations I'd look for a wholesale switch from Office 95 and 97 to Office 2000, over a remarkably short period of time - it really is *that* much better. Experienced Office users who try Office 2000 won't be willing to go back to the earlier versions, and for good reason: each of the applications has several key new features that will pay for the upgrade in days or (at most) weeks. Yes, the emphasis in Office 2000 lies in Web integration. But even if you never use the Web, Microsoft has created dozens of compelling new capabilities that every Office user will want, and ultimately need, to get their work done.
Beyond Office 2000 the crystal ball grows a little murkier. I, for one, hope that Microsoft concentrates on three areas. First, there's a crying need to make the pieces of Office work together better: even in Office 2000 it's ridiculously difficult to bring a name from Outlook into a Word document, for example; using the painfully slow NetShow to deliver a PowerPoint presentation will tax the patience of a saint. Second, Microsoft needs to listen to its customers better, to smooth out the hundreds of niggling little problems that bedevil us all - from email inboxes that can't be shared in Outlook, to automatic Excel formula "corrections" that clobber perfectly good formulas, to Word paragraph numbering schemes that fall far short of legal offices' needs. Third, Microsoft has an enormous amount of work to do to make the Office package more consistent - a "template" should work the same whether it's in Word or Excel or PowerPoint or FrontPage; a text search that's valid in Word should also work in Publisher or Outlook.
Will Microsoft be able to rise to the challenges of 2001 and beyond? Frankly, I'm not overly optimistic. Now that Office has effectively taken over the office suite marketplace, Microsoft may grow less paranoid, and devote too few resources to the "Office 10" design and development effort. That would really be a pity, as there's so much work left to do, so many things that could and should be improved. The only real competition for the next version of Office will be the older version - and that does not bode well for us consumers.
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