Microsoft Postpones Office Until 2007

On Monday, software giant Microsoft invited users to take Office 2007 Beta 2out for a spin” and touting that 2.5 million people seem to have happily adopted the beta.

And today, through public relations firm Waggener Edstrom, Microsoft announced it was delaying release of its integrated suite of business productivity applications, citing “product performance” concerns raised in the current beta. Instead of releasing the software to major accounts by the end of 2006, with general availability to follow in early 2007 (neatly corresponding to current release targets for the company’s forthcoming Windows Vista operating system).According to Microsoft, “feedback on quality and performance will ultimately determine the exact dates” for the Office 2007 release.

This Office 2007 delay isn’t a dramatic change for the Office suite: Microsoft had previously planned to release Office 2007 to major accounts and OEMs in October 2006, with a general public release in January 2007, corresponding to the Vista launch. The total shift can probably be described fairly as six to nine weeks.

Office 2007 represents a major departure for the long-lived productivity suite, ditching many ingrained interface elements and feature implementations in favor of a nearly complete design. Microsoft says customers will embrace the productivity enhancements offered by the new system, but radical redesign of any mainstream software product always carries a significant risk.