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Microsoft made software more secure -- for itself 


The high-tech office column

Business in Vancouver, July 11, 2001 Issue #607


Deciding to upgrade to a new version of Microsoft Office isn't just a question of looking at features, as we did last week. It's also a question of economics and politics. 

First, the cost. The new Office XP comes in a range of versions. XP Standard, with the new versions of Word, Excel, Outlook and Powerpoint, is $749 for new copies and $379 for upgrades. XP Professional adds the Access database to the mix, upping the price to $899 and $529 for upgrades. 

XP Developer is the Professional package plus Frontpage Web creation program and Sharepoint Web services, priced at $1,169 and $809. Finally, XP Professional Special Edition is a limited-time offer, adding Frontpage, Publisher, Sharepoint and a mouse for $709. 

There's no longer a retail Small Business version, which previously bundled Word, Excel and Outlook with Microsoft's Publisher page layout program for the same price as the Professional version. This package is only available preinstalled on new hardware, as is a version that includes Access, Powerpoint and Publisher. Prices for them are set by the hardware vendor. 

Office 95 users are left out in the cold. If you've put off upgrading that long, Microsoft will make you pay full price for this version. 

Large corporations may also feel pinched. 

As previously, they can get deep discounts when buying licences for large numbers of installations. This time around, though, they have to upgrade by October 1 in order to qualify. Moreover, the discounted versions have to be installed onto computers either running Windows 2000 or promised to be upgraded to Windows XP (due out October 25). Companies wanting to stay current can opt for Software Assurance, paying an annual fee that will give them access to ongoing upgrades, sort of software by subscription. 

Corporations not signing on at this time, however, will have to pay full upgrade costs if they choose to upgrade later. 

Microsoft Canada's director of channel sales, David Willis, suggests licensing changes offer "a good balance between simplification and choice." He added company studies indicate 50 per cent of licence customers will see no change in price and the 30 per cent with "a big commitment to Microsoft technology" will see costs go down. The 20 per cent of corporate customers "who purchase upgrade licenses infrequently... will see their licensing costs increase." 

Individual and small business users get another controversial feature; their copies of Office XP require product activation via a Registration Wizard. 

After installing XP, these users are required to activate it by contacting Microsoft, typically over the Internet. The Registration Wizard sends a summary of the computer hardware it is installed on, along with optional personal info, and Microsoft sends back a registration code. This allows reinstallation on the same hardware (up to two times), but will make it more difficult to install the same copy of Office onto a different computer. 

Users needing to reinstall Office more than twice, following computer crashes or buying new hardware, will need to contact Microsoft to explain their situation. Microsoft hopes this will help minimize widespread piracy. 

What's in the name, by the way? 

At first, Word, Excel and the Office bundle were sold with version numbers: Word 6, Office 4.2 and so forth. Along with the Windows 95 release, Microsoft switched to year-based versions of its Office products. 

This time around, Microsoft has switched again, to "XP": Office XP and Windows XP. Presumably, XP stands for "eXPerience," as Microsoft claims these versions will improve the experience of using these products. Readers are welcome to suggest other meanings for XP. 

I wonder what Microsoft will use to name the versions following XP? Office YQ? Windows GTO? 

(See Michael Parks column for more on Microsoft, page 9.) 

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan