Talk about getting your wires crossed. In the same week that Microsoft sounded the trumpets for the arrival of their online preview for Office 2007, they’re now announcing a shipping delay for the office suite.
"Based on internal testing and the beta 2 feedback around product performance, we are revising our development schedule to deliver the 2007 system release by the end of year 2006, with broad general availability in early 2007," a Microsoft spokesperson told Ars Technica.
The company had previously planned an October release, although speculation that Office 2007 would be delayed began shortly after Windows Vista’s own ship date slipped from the fourth quarter of 2006 into early 2007. Pragmatically speaking, this means that the company will launch its mainstream promotions for Office 2007 almost simultaneously with Windows Vista.
How much of a change this represents for Microsoft’s marketing plans is unclear. The October release was already low-key, aimed primarily at getting OEMs on board in advance of holiday sales. For the consumer market, the expectation has been that Microsoft’s marketing department would ride the Vista wave while trying to hawk Office. That’s unlikely to change now, unless Windows Vista slips again. Ballmer has hinted that Windows Vista could see another delay, but those hints are largely vacuous, and seem to be primarily centered on timing issues framed in terms of weeks, not months. We expect that Microsoft will shortly announce free upgrade programs for computers purchased this holiday season for both Windows Vista and Office 2007. At the very least, such a move would allow Microsoft to talk up their "units shipped" quickly after launch
According to Microsoft, over 2.5 million people have downloaded the Office 2007 beta. It marks a significant development for the company, insofar as they are abandoning many years of a largely consistent user interface in favor of an almost entirely redesigned system. Microsoft believes that the redesign will pay off in spades as customers find new productivity enhancements, but the marked difference from versions past could be considered a risk for the company, should the Office 2007 System meet mostly disinterested customers. IT buyers in particular have expressed concerns that the new user interface could end up costing companies more as they retrain users. Office developers, on the other hand, have said that the new user interface was originally conceived with to require little to no training to use effectively.