Next Office Release To Support Windows XP and 2000

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It's now clear that Office 12, long assumed to be a Longhorn release, will be no such thing.

The plan now is for the next major release of Microsoft's Office productivity suite to support Windows XP and Windows 2000, as well as some features of the long-delayed Longhorn client, optimistically due in 2006.

To be fair, as Microsoft Group Vice President Jeff Raikes pointed out to CRN last week: "We never did say if Longhorn was required or not."

Insiders say the original idea was for Office 12 to be a Longhorn release, fully exploiting the new operating system's features. Then Longhorn slipped and Office did not. Given that many corporate customers rely on Office as their de facto desktop, they expect timely updates. The team could not afford to be hogtied to an operating system's nebulous schedule.

The Office effort, led by Senior Vice President Steven Sinofsky, was forging ahead with a new "Milestone Q" quality-first design approach for Office 12 at least three months before Office 2003 launched last October.

"Steve runs a machine, [he] picks a date and a focus. [The team is] very predictable in that 24- to 36-month range, and that's something I think our customers appreciate." Raikes said.

Solution providers must be practical. While they want to be kept in the loop about distant deliverables like Longhorn and the related next-gen "Project Green" business applications, they're more concerned with the here and now.

"I have this thing called payroll. I have to sell what's here," said Andy Vabulas, president of IBIS, an Atlanta solution provider.

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