2003 And Beyond

Highly cynical and speculative article on how Microsoft plans to make its customers' lives a living hell.

Microsoft simply cannot allow inroads on Office's market share, yet the high and increasing cost of office, especially in view of License 6 has many businesses looking very hard at Sun Microsystems' low cost StarOffice and its “no cost” sibling, OpenOffice. Both run on Windows and Linux, and OpenOffice is being ported to Apple Macintosh. Both have excellent compatibility with Microsoft Office files, and native integration with XML.

Microsoft is also having a very hard time getting users to upgrade to the latest Office versions. Office 97 has long been replaced by Office 2000, which in turn has been replaced by Office XP, yet a huge number of Office users are still on Office 97 and show no signs of upgrading.

Microsoft's answer to both these problems is Office 2003 (formerly named Office 11), currently in beta release and scheduled for final release in mid 2003. Office 2003 features a degree of tight integration with other Microsoft products that is impossible for other software vendors to achieve. It is also a degree of tightness Microsoft's customers will find nearly impossible to escape once committed. These features will be required by .NET and other Microsoft initiatives.

Office 2003 and Windows Sever 2003 will include a Rights Management Services feature for document security. If Microsoft can convince businesses to use this feature, Office 2003 documents will be completely unreadable by OpenOffice / StarOffice, WordPerfect Office, Lotus, and by all older versions of Microsoft Office, forcing a total upgrade of Windows, Office and the computers it runs on.

Office 2003 will not run on Windows 95, 98, 98SE or Me. Microsoft is very clear that it will run only on Windows XP and Windows 2000 with SP3 applied. Currently over 60% of Microsoft's business customers are still running Windows 95/98, and would have to purchase all new computers for an XP upgrade – new computers soon to be obsoleted by Longhorn and Paladium.

Note that applying SP3 for Windows 2000 requires you to accept a license that allows Microsoft to enter your computer systems, examine their contents and make changes without your knowledge or permission. Some companies are refusing to apply SP3 even though it includes important security patches. The Windows XP license also includes these terms.