Excel 2003 mainstream support ends Jan 2009

It ends Jan 13 2009 to be precise. It would be amusing if that was a Friday, but it isn’t.

Here is a link- its to the Google cache version so you can avoid the intrusive malware that seems to have infected the MS Office site recently

So that is 14 months away, just over a year! Office 14 is pencilled in for mid 2009 release so it looks like for a while there 2007 will be the only supported version. I’m going to stick my neck out and say that will leave the majority of their customers with an unsupported version of Office. 2003 is probably at 60% now, but was around 30% in 2005, 2 years after release.

If 2007 follows the same curve (and there are plenty of arguments that it could be better or worse) it will be around 30% in 2009 at the point it becomes the only version with mainstream support. That leaves 70% of Office users without mainstream support. If that isn’t an opportunity for alternative productivity suites I don’t know what is.

Office 2003 has not been officially available since June 2007, although I’m sure that won’t stop most orgs accessing it for new pcs, either via a subscription downgrade, or some other method.

Likewise just because their version is not supported doesn’t mean orgs are going to abandon it either. Currently around 40% of the market are running a version of Excel that is either out of mainstream support, or out of all support (2002 or older).

I’m assuming the logic goes something like tried and tested, but unsupported is better than unproven but supported. Do you see it differently? (each org will have its own definition of ‘better’)

This is the only explanation I can think of for why users of unsupported versions don’t abandon ship to an alternative like OpenOffice. That and the investment they have in functioning Excel/VBA based line of business apps and reports. Microsoft clearly don’t see retraining as an adoption blocker, otherwise 2007 would have had a compatibility mode.

Lack of support is the number one reason I hear for lack of adoption of open source stuff, but in these modern day times of OS bounties you could probably get OS stuff patched for the same price as a full cost support call.

Do you think its just inertia? Do you foresee any significant changes in the spreadsheet market? Increased fragmentation?

I can imagine in 12-24 months needing Excel2003, Excel2007, OpenOffice and Google Docs knowledge to cover the same proportion of the market you cover now with just Excel97-2003 skills. Can you?



6 Responses to “Excel 2003 mainstream support ends Jan 2009”

  1. Jon Peltier Says:

    “I can imagine in 12-24 months needing Excel2003, Excel2007, OpenOffice and Google Docs knowledge to cover the same proportion of the market you cover now with just Excel97-2003 skills. Can you?”

    In 24 months I foresee maybe up to half of my business in Excel 2007, the rest in 2003-compatible Excel. I see no work in Google or OpenOffice variants. The fact that a version is no longer officially supported is not so important (look how many are still using Office 2002 and earlier). The fact is that there is a lot of free support available for generic MS Office on hundreds of web sites and online forums. That’s what I call critical mass.

  2. Dennis Wallentin Says:

    Large corporates and public organizations have either internal desktop support or via agreement with external larger IT-corporates. This will make sure that end users can get support for older Office suite versions.
    As Jon has pointed out, the web provide all users 24/7 service via forums and sites.

    From what I can see, the public sector moves slowly towards StarOffice/OpenOffice but they still heavily rely on MSFT’s Office suite.

    As for the Goggle Office suite the future will tell us more about it.

    On a personal note, whenever MSFT launch a new Office version I just put it in my toolbox and moves on.

    I’m more depended on new version of VS.NET then on new versions of the Office suite.

    Kind regards,

  3. Harlan Grove Says:

    I can’t see anyone abandoning Office for OpenOffice or Google Docs or Zoho etc. in most businesses, government or larger noncommercial organizations. OTOH, I can’t see how Microsoft can still sell Works, since these alternatives are more capable. I could see the alternatives becoming more widely used on home and school machines, and that slowly affecting workplace software purchasing. I could also see on-line spreadsheets and other documents being used to bypass IT/IS department restrictions on e-mailing file attachments.

    But I could also see abandoning spreadsheets in favor of grid controls run by object-oriented-ish procedural programming. It’s all a question of how decentralized tactical/departmental application development remains.

  4. Stephane Rodriguez Says:

    The article on Information Week leads to the Microsoft acquisition of company Stratature who sells a server product (metadata, middleware, audit, SOX). Interesting to follow, especially when other teams at Microsoft such as Reporting Services have such technologies in their products. Which team is going to win, which team is going to have to kill their redundant stuff? In both cases though, an even more obvious move 1) towards servers 2) towards BI. Gutfeel is that Excel+VBA will remain an unmatched tool for prototyping, but people are moving elsewhere.

  5. Charles Davies Says:

    Hi Sim

    I think from a user perspective they won’t care, and from a business perspective it will only matter when IT directors can justify the budget for changing (not really an ‘upgrade’ is it!) to Office 2007. Better infrastructure, improving hardware, restructuring resurces would be higher up the ladder for an IT spend. It would have to be a very, very good business rather than IT driven requirement to change.

    To follow on from Stephanes post being an ex-Excel consultant and having consulted in Business Objects for around 8 years I deal alot with businesses wanting to move away from an database/Excel solution to a more robust BI solution where the relationship between the data and the user is one of trust and consistency. The removal of data manipulation/formulae amendments in reporting solutions is critical in achieving that trust.

    Enjoy your blog Sim, hope the family’s well.


  6. Simon Says:

    Hi Charles
    Good to hear from you.
    8 years? ‘kin hell how time flies!!!
    Great point on trust, that is so fundamental, and so missing in general.

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