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Bloated Office 2010 kicks dirt in face of old computers

Features-heavy suite piles on CPU, RAM pounds

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Microsoft has confirmed that the upgrade path from Office 2003 to its upcoming Office 2010 suite won’t necessarily be an easy one for customers to follow.

The software maker said on Friday that PCs capable of running Office 2007 would be able play nice with Office 2010.

However, punters still using Office 2003 won’t have quite such an easy ride, as Microsoft cannot guarantee they’ll automatically be able to run Office 2010 on the same hardware.

Redmond said the 32-bit version of Office 2010 would run on Windows XP SP3, Vista SP1, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2003 R2. The 64-bit flavour of the Office apps suite will work on all 64-bit versions of the same operating systems, with the exception of Windows Server 2003 R2.

But depending on what computer a customer is running those operating systems on, an upgrade from Office 2003 to Office 2010 may be a painful process.

“CPU and RAM requirements approximately doubled between Office 2003 and Office 2007,” noted Microsoft’s Alex Dubec.

“We haven’t changed the CPU or RAM requirements from Office 2007, but the footprint of most Office applications have gotten larger. These changes force us to increase the system requirements - most standalone application disk-space requirements have gone up by 0.5 GB and the suites have increased by 1.0 or 1.5 GB.”

Dubec said that the addition of features such as the much-derided arrival of the Ribbon, along with the 64-bit Office’s debut among other things has beefed up that footprint considerably.

He also reaffirmed that Office 2010 didn’t represent a major release for Microsoft, in part to ensure an easier transition from Office 2007 - if not Office 2003.

The trouble is that many customers remain on Office 2003. So when it comes to upgrading their suite, they might well have a battle on their hands that could culminate in ditching old hardware in favour of something more compatible with Office 2010.

Dubec acknowledged that Microsoft was aware of the grumbles.

“One of the pieces of feedback we’ve received from customers is that they really, really hate having to buy new hardware every time a new version of Office is released. With that in mind, one of our goals for the Office 2010 was to make sure that the minimum hardware requirement would not increase from Office 2007,” he said.

There were significant changes in the code between Office 2003 and Office 2007 in the areas of installation and customisation, file format, security, interface, and object model that affected Outlook, Excel, Access, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote - all of which are apps used extensively by business customers.

“We invested in improving the customer experience on minimum-requirement hardware, and we regularly tested performance throughout the development cycle. Our footprint has gotten larger since Office 2007, but we’re proud to say that we’ve succeeded in keeping the CPU and RAM requirements the same as for Office 2007.”

Sadly, making the leap from Office 2003 to Office 2010 - which Microsoft plans to release in June this year - might not prove so easy. ®

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