Office 2007 Service Pack 2: A Major Update

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Tighter server integration keeps Office ahead of Linux/OpenOffice, but SP2 could create headaches for IT organisations.

Companies should make no mistake about what Microsoft Office 2007 is and is not. Starting with Office 2003, Microsoft expanded Office’s core functionality from the desktop to the server. The company has since integrated many Office features with various Microsoft server products. Service Pack 2, which was made available 28 April, is a clear indication of how deep this integration goes.

The integration means changes and tweaks that affect not just Office but Exchange Server, SharePoint Server and many other Microsoft back-end products. “This is a monster service pack release for Office,” claimed Gray Knowlton, a Microsoft group product manager for the productivity suite, in a blog post, 27 April. Knowlton provides links to 14 other Microsoft blogs that will provide updates about Service Pack 2 (SP2).

To be clear, SP2 updates relating to server software affect how Office 2007 products interact with server-side features. Microsoft is not rolling out a rash of updates for server software today. Nevertheless, there are enough changes, to Office and supporting server software, for IT organisations to want to carefully test the service pack before deploying.

The tweaks are seemingly everywhere. Microsoft is providing plenty of resources for IT organisations to help them understand exactly how wide and deep the changes go. An overview is available in this Knowledge Base article. Microsoft also offers a spreadsheet with highlighted changes. Then there are the aforementioned 15 blogs, including Knowlton’s.

But there are other resources and changes, some of which Microsoft is trumpeting as part of its so-called Interoperability Principles. Service Pack 2 introduces limited support for Open Document Format (ODF) 1.1 and for Microsoft’s File Converter API. Both are supposed to improve file format interoperability with other products. ODF support is limited, although Microsoft promises more in Office 2010, which is due to be released early in 2010. Microsoft Senior Program Manager Doug Mahugh, and Program Manager Stephen Peront offer separate blog posts explaining ODF support and the External File Converter API.

Where Office Beats Linux

Office also benefits from the aforementioned tight integration along the vertical server stack, which works as a deterrent against adoption of competing software, particularly open source. Where Linux falls short is the stack from server to desktop. Linux’s server success hasn’t spread to the desktop, because there are simply too many missing applications up the stack and too few integrated benefits for the ones there.

Most importantly, there is no Linux equivalent to Microsoft Office, regardless of open-source community claims for OpenOffice.org. Office is what companies use and manage, and its formats contain most businesses’ crown jewels of information. As long as most companies continue to use Office, Microsoft can pull sales to and from the server and desktop. Linux will be a non-starter there until something replaces Office. There’s no challenger yet. Limited ODF support within Office won’t create a challenger.

Conclusion

However, the many updates and tweaks in Service Pack 2 could create headaches for some IT organisations, particularly those operating supporting Microsoft server software. To download Office 2007 Service Pack 2, click here.

Joe Wilcox is editor of Microsoft Watch.admin