In a flurry of recent launch events for Office System 2003, Microsoft highlighted a variety of new features for end users, ranging from improved e-mail access to a new "information gathering and management" application called InfoPath. More important to admins, however, are the many new capabilities lurking inside the system's almost two dozen server and desktop products that could possibly prove quite helpful, assuming that their organizations make the migration to Windows Server 2003.
At the main launch in New York City, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates presented a series of slides showing how Office System incorporates new desktop applications — such as InfoPath, a note-taking app known as OneNote, and a revamped Outlook client — plus a new instant messaging (IM) server and several but not all of Microsoft's other .NET servers.
Yet analysts caution that systems administrators shouldn't come away with the mistaken impression that Office System is a "product" in and of itself.
"This isn't like just going out and buying the 'Office System 1.0 product,' or something," says Mike Gotta, senior VP and principal analyst at the Meta Group. "These are separate products, with various crosslinks and different degrees of integration."
On the server side, the Office System mix integrates the 2003 server editions of Exchange, SharePoint, and Project Server. Not included, though, are .NET servers such as Systems Management Server (SMS), SQL Server, and Microsoft's Internet Information Services (IIS) Web server.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is using the new system to make a big play for the many Windows organizations, large and small, that never made the move from NT to Windows 2000.
Observers point to licensing fees, other upgrade costs, operating system complexities, and the rise of Linux as stumbling blocks in Microsoft's drive to migrate NT customers to new strains of Windows.
"Microsoft is definitely feeling a lot of pressure from Linux," concedes Mike Walker, director of marketing for Miramar Systems, a maker of desktop migration software.
Some raise questions, though, as to whether Office System's new bells and whistles are enough to budge the NT-installed base.