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Office 12: Not Necessarily For Longhorn

You think the next big version of Microsoft Office is for Longhorn? Wrong!

Office 12, the next release of the powerhouse productivity suite, is slated to support Windows XP, Windows 2000 and oh, yeah, Longhorn when it ships, company insiders say.

That comes as news to many who thought they knew Microsoft's game plan. But according to Microsoft, that's not really news at all. "We have said as we look forward that we will look at going on in Windows and will take advantage of the platform that is out there," said Dan Leach, group product manager of Office.

Microsoft knows it would be folly to leave the millions of Windows XP and 2000 users out in the cold and force an upgrade to the shiny, new and radically different Longhorn version of Windows, which is now expected in 2007 or later. Office 12 initially was slated to ship with Longhorn, but the next-generation Windows platform slipped and Office didn't, according to one insider. "The Office team is disciplined. They nail down their feature set, set a schedule and usually hit it," the insider said.

With many volume licenses lasting three years, the pressure is on Microsoft to deliver major customer-pleasing upgrades within that time frame. That means the next Office would have to ship by October 2006, and no one expects Longhorn to make its debut by then. If Microsoft can roll out the new Office with significant enhancements under that schedule, it might ease some corporate users' angst.

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