Office 2003 Joins Windows XP on the Scrapheap of Obsolescence


geoff andersonYou’d have to be living in a cave somewhere to have missed the fact that Microsoft ended all service and support for Windows

XP last week. The amount of hype surrounding the move has been staggering. So much attention in the channel has been focused on the XP story that you could be forgiven if you had missed the fact that XP wasn’t alone in being banished to the scrapheap of software obsolescence.

Microsoft Office 2003, long a stalwart of office applications, has likewise and simultaneously been cut off and Microsoft is making a strong push to migrate users to Office 365.

“The term ‘paradigm shift’ is badly overused,” admits Geoff Anderson (pictured), but he insists it really applies in this case. As Group Product Manager for Office 365 for SMBs, Anderson is front and center in the drive to make Office 365 as successful with SMBs as Office 2003 was.

According to Anderson, the value users look for from their office apps today is very different from what they were looking for – or what was technologically possible – in 2003.

“One of the things I see, the moment the light bulb goes on for a lot of customers, is when they realize that we aren’t really talking about the same thing here,” he says. “The desktop computer of 2003 is a completely different process to what they have today with a multitude of devices (and the cloud). This isn’t about getting off Office 2003, it’s about getting onto something with real, tangible business advantages.”

That’s where the paradigm shift talk comes in. Office 365 offers SMBs the flexibility of the cloud, multi-device access and mobility. Anderson references a user in South Africa to prove his point. Microsoft donated Office 365 to the non-profit Wildlands Conservation Trust, which helps small communities create sustainable economies through “green” activities. This work is largely project-based and often involves remote teams working in the field. Since adopting Office 365 the organization is better able to capture data, store it and use it to collaborate despite significant geographic challenges.

One of the biggest values for an SMB owner, says Anderson, is that you no longer have to be a functional CTO. In the past, any business owner had to know enough about technology to make decisions about increasingly complex hardware, software and telecommunications.

“Many of the (subscription) plans include the full office client,” says Anderson. “So you don’t just get the web apps…you get a full version of office which you can use on up to five machines and five devices. You can have it at home, at work and the airport. There’s not that same sense of connecting a device to one user (that office suites had).”

And of course, while Anderson is emphasising the new business value of Office 365 over the legacy suite (and he should because while the up-front monthly subscription cost Office 365 is lower than the one-time license fee of a suite like Office 2010, the amortized cost of that suite over five or more years is significantly lower), there is still the fact that Office 2003 users will gradually find themselves facing more and more problems with a suite that is not longer being patched, fixed and supported.