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Operating Systems and Microsoft Office Futures

The IT department has been testing Microsoft Vista and Office 2007 for Windows computers, along with Office 2008 for Macintosh computers. We are also developing an implementation timeline for these products. The opinion of the IT department (and many other institutions in higher education) is that there is no compelling reason to quickly move to Vista or Office 2007. As a general rule, we don’t begin serious consideration of a new operating system or major Office revision until the first Service Packs (updates) are released from Microsoft. In addition, there will probably be significant training needs with both Vista and Office 2007. The challenges for each product are outlined below.

Vista (Windows operating system replacement for XP)

There are significant software incompatibility issues with Vista. Many administrative and academic software titles are not certified to work with Vista. Software titles often lag behind the release of new Windows operating systems, which means it may take a year or more before all of our academic software will work with Vista. Additionally, there are many older software programs that will never work with Vista. We are contemplating a move to Vista during the 2010 summer deployment of new computers.
Office 2007 (Windows)
Office 2007 is not directly backward compatible with Office 2003. Therefore, if someone creates a document in Office 2007, an Office 2003 user will not be able to open the document unless he or she has the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Windows installed. We are tentatively planning to install Office 2007 on new computers during the summer 2009 deployment, contingent upon successful testing. We are also working on a plan to upgrade existing Office 2003 users to Office 2007, but we have no further details to share at this time.
Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Windows
This allows Office 2003 users to open Office 2007 documents. Thus, if a student purchases a new computer that has Office 2007 and sends a document to a faculty member who is using Office 2003 with the Compatibility Pack installed, the faculty member can open the document on his or her computer. The Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack is currently installed on all public Windows computers (podiums, computer classrooms, library computers, etc.) It is also currently available for all faculty and staff Windows computers. If you need to have it installed on your computer, please contact the help desk at ext. 5900.

Office 2008 (Mac)
The earliest possible adoption of Office 2008 is the summer of 2009. Initial testing has shown incompatibilities between Office 2008 and Office 2007. The IT department tentatively plans on deploying Office 2008 during the summer 2009 computer deployment, contingent upon successful testing.
Office 2008 Compatibility Pack for Macs
The Office 2008 Compatibility Pack for Macs was recently released, and consequently, has not been thoroughly tested for use on campus. Upon successful testing we will notify the community of its availability for installation.

- Tom Marcotte, Director, User Services