"Companies that are conservative adopters of new technology should consider waiting until Windows Vista is deployed, possibly skipping Office 12 entirely, and letting other companies discover any potential weaknesses or flaws."

Gartner analysts Michael Silverberg and Stephen Kleynhans note the the downside of dramatic Office 12 UI changes is that migration may be rough for some users and the IT departments which support them.

"Microsoft contends that, in the long run, the new UI will reduce help-desk costs and training…but many IT organizations are likely to feel that, in the short run, they will have to train users on the new UI, and will experience an initial spike in help desk calls."

"In addition, because of the magnitude of the changes expected with Office 12, IT departments may have trouble supporting a mixed environment, adding to the difficulty of handling a phased implementation on new PCs."

Gartner Analysis

* Cascading requirements, interoperability across versions and roll-out sequences remain unclear — and may change before Office 12 ships. For example, the new UI may make mixing versions more difficult for some enterprises, making it difficult or impossible to perform a gradual, rolling upgrade.

* Microsoft said it will ship Office 12 by the end of 2006. In this industry, on-time delivery would be highly unusual. In the same relative time frame, the number of Microsoft-related upgrades (beyond Office) that users will have to deal with (such as Vista and SQL Server) is potentially high, meaning that many firms will not be in a position to roll out Office 12 before 2008.

Gartner Recommendations: Despite many potentially powerful enhancements, most enterprises will find it hard to justify upgrading during 2007 and 2008. Pay close attention to Microsoft's Office 12 plans, test and pilot technology as it becomes available and take a look at the broad range of options including:

* Using alternatives to Windows and Office. IBM Workplace is far more "real" today than Office 12, as IBM is shipping

Gartner Foresees Office 12 Migration Headaches

Consider Microsoft's Office 12 Plans, but With Caution - Official Gartner Document