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Office Version Survey 2006


Microsoft Office Version Survey 2006

Martin Green - 30 August 2006

This is Getting to Be a Habit!

Whenever I feel that I'm getting comfortable with the latest version of Microsoft Office another version comes along. Since the introduction of Microsoft Office 4 for Windows 3.1 in 1993 the company has launched five new versions. Its history goes even further back to 1990 when Microsoft introduced a suite of programs for the Mac called The Microsoft Office which was the precursor of the Microsoft Office System we know today.

I started using Microsoft Office when version 4.3 was current and it was with this version that I took my first tentative steps as a trainer. Then Windows 95 was launched along with a fairly hastily put together version of Office to match. When Office 97 appeared it set the standard for all that was to follow.

But let's not get all misty-eyed here! We're looking at a time span of less than fifteen years for the Windows product and since Microsoft estimates that there are 400 Million Microsoft Office users worldwide I doubt if they are all running the latest version.

Part of the Microsoft Office has evolved newspaper ad.

At the time of writing, Microsoft had recently run an advertising campaign - "Microsoft Office has evolved" - urging users of older versions to upgrade to Office 2003. It is interesting coming at this time since the company is preparing to launch another version later this year (2006) or early next year. The characters in the advertisement are portrayed as dinosaurs struggling to cope in the modern world with their archaic version of Microsoft Office (the ad mentions Office 97). [Click the thumbnail image below to see a scan of the whole advertisement.]

Click the thumbnail image to see a full size picture.

Why Another Survey?

It is two years since I concluded my last Microsoft Office Version Survey in May 2004. The then new version of Microsoft Office (Office 2003) was a few months old and I wanted to get an idea of which versions of Office people were using and how quickly the new version was being adopted. As I write this the next version of Microsoft Office (2007 Microsoft Office System being the official name although most of us call it "Office 12") is being prepared for launch and the Beta 2 version is widely available.

My work as a developer and trainer brings me into contact with a wide range of people. It is important for me to know how many people are using the various different versions of Microsoft's Office suite. At any time I might be asked to give a class, build a database or a VBA application, in any one of the current Office program versions. As long as my memory holds out, working with the older versions isn't a problem. I have computers running Office 97, 2000, 2002 and 2003 (I even have a PC running Windows 3.11 and Office 4.3 but that's just for old times sake!).

I am particularly interested in predicting the speed of uptake of the next version of Office. I will get my copy as soon as it is released, and whilst I keep a close watch on any previews and pre-release information (I don't have the time - or a spare PC - to play about with beta versions), I don't get to see the programs before my clients do so the learning curve has to be a steep one for me.

I'm also interested in how quickly the older versions of Office are being discarded, because this has an implication on how long Microsoft will continue to support their technologies. My programming skills are focussed around VB and VBA which Microsoft have stated will continue to be supported in the version after next (i.e. Office 14 - note that there will be no Office 13!) so I can devote my time to learning how to program the new features of the next version rather than having to learn a new programming language.

The 2006 Survey Results

The survey collected a total of 1063 votes. Participants were asked to vote once for each version of Microsoft Office that they were currently using (maybe one version at home and a different one at work) but not more than once for the same version. Some attempts were made to place multiple votes for the same version but these additional votes were removed from the survey. The results are shown in the table and chart below:

Microsoft Office Version Survey 2006
     Version           Votes          Percent    
Office 4.x 1 0.1%
Office 95 2 0.2%
Office 97 53 5%
Office 2000 190 18%
Office 2002 221 21%
Office 2003 574 54%
Office Mac 22 2.1%

Microsoft Office Version Survey 2006.

According to the votes cast there is still a small but significant minority of people using Office 97 (5%) although earlier versions are effectively extinct. There is also a significant but small number of people using Office on a Mac (2.1%). As expected the majority of users work with Office 2003 (54%) this being the most recent version, whilst the two previous versions (Office 2000 and 2002) are more or less equal with 18% and 21% respectively.

So What Does It All Mean?

Before drawing any conclusions from these results you must consider the sort of people who participated in the survey. They presumably had some interest in learning more about their Office programs and are likely to have been looking for help with VBA. This indicates that they are likely to be either reasonably experienced or intensive users of Office. They also had to have Internet access. It may be that there are significant numbers of people using earlier versions of Office, possibly without access to the Internet. But I think that the survey probably reflects the sort of business users that I am interested in, who visit my web site, and who form my client base.

The latest version of Microsoft Office is the clear leader with more users than all the others put together. As you might expect the rise in popularity of this version is mostly at the expense of the oldest widely used version (Office 97). The remaining versions (Office 2000 and 2002) held equal first place in the last survey and their use has fallen almost equally. You can compare the results of the 2006 survey with my earlier (2004) survey in this chart:

Microsoft Office Version Surveys Compared.

I believe that the uptake of a new version of Microsoft Office is closely linked to the the upgrading of hardware. Enthusiasts and professionals are likely to start using a new version as soon as it appears, but business users are often reluctant to upgrade simply because a new version is available. Microsoft works hard to persuade the business community that its latest Office suite has features that will really benefit them and justify the cost and, more importantly, the effort of upgrading. I have spoken to many IT Support professionals whose companies depend on them to keep their computer systems running smoothly and most would not consider offering a new version to their users until at least the first Service Pack had been issued and some of the inevitable bugs had been fixed.

Hardware prices have fallen dramatically recently, such that the "life" of a PC in the business environment is now estimated to be about 3 years. New hardware usually means new software too, especially in business where hardware suppliers are urged not to sell "naked" PCs (i.e. computers without installed software) to their customers. I suspect that there are many people waiting for the release of Windows Vista (also due in early 2007) to upgrade to new PCs equipped with a new operating system and a new version of Office.

In Conclusion...

Microsoft Office 2003 is very popular with its users and is still being sold hard by Microsoft despite the imminent arrival of the next version. I expect that, as with Office 2003, the uptake of Office 2007 will be slow at first particularly if it is released before Windows Vista (although it should run comfortably on Windows XP). When it does take off it will probably be at the expense of both Office 2000 and Office 2002 in equal part.

If I'm still here in 2008, I'll let you know!

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