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The pros and cons of MS Office System 2003

The concept of the "virtual office" has been a hallmark of discussion since the advent of the minicomputer, which brought computing out of the computer center and into the office. From the 1960s on, "office systems" was a common term used for tools which simply meant "systems for the office." IBM's Office System's division sold typewriters, dictation machines and word processors.

One constant in the office -- from the days of the quill to the typewriter and the adding machine to the word processor and spreadsheet -- has been the nature of output. Much work is individually created and then shared, and while tools may have changed, the work product has not.

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Microsoft effectively resurrected the term office system in its new Collaborative Business Knowledge offering, Microsoft Office System 2003. Seeking to leverage the ubiquity of its Office productivity suite, which includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and email tools, it might appear to the casual observer that Office System 2003 is merely a collection of these products along with portal and conferencing tools plugged in. Nothing could be further from the truth. A detailed review of Microsoft Office System 2003 reveals that this is a new offering featuring a coordinated set of Collaborative Business Knowledge tools companies can use to deploy true Collaborative Business Environments (CBE).

In fact, Microsoft Office System 2003 enables companies to build CBEs in two ways:

  1. Microsoft Office System uses extensible markup language (XML) as a basis for information sharing between the desktop, workgroups and the enterprise.
  2. Collaboration products such as Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2003 and Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2003 bring Collaborative Business Knowledge functionality to other Microsoft Office System applications.

To analyze the pros and cons of Microsoft Office System, we at Basex employed its proprietary Knowledge Worker Impact Quotient (TM), or KWIQ, to provide a framework for evaluating or selecting an appropriate CBK tool or service, simplifying the decision-making process and enabling more effective IT investments. The primary criteria for choosing a Collaborative Business Environment are administration, application integration, architecture, collaboration and community, content and document management, knowledge management, messaging and security.

We found Microsoft's message -- and product -- compelling enough to prepare an in-depth review of Microsoft Office System 2003, which is available for free download.

Just like the early days of office systems, when the IBM S electric typewriter was the ubiquitous document creation tool, users today can sit in front of its de facto replacement, Microsoft Word. Office System comprises a set of comprehensive real-time Collaborative Business Knowledge tools, which by and large work together in a single overarching environment (in accordance with the Basex One Environment Rule, the user should not have to leave the single environment to accomplish various tasks). Of course, Microsoft Office System 2003 is still multiple products and environments. But if this first iteration is any indication, Microsoft Office System 2003 will present both a formidable challenge to its competitors and a unique opportunity to many companies seeking the path to an enterprise-wide Collaborative Business Environment.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and chief analyst at Basex. He can be reached at

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