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While Microsoft faces a host of challenges in maintaining its market share numbers and persuading customers to upgrade to its 2007 Office System suite of products when released in the second half of this year, its competitors face an equally daunting task of winning users away from Office 2007 and growing their numbers.

Heading the list of challenges facing Microsoft is the fact that Office 2007 has a new user interface, which could require extensive staff retraining at a significant cost, as well as a new file format, which has the potential to create compatibility issues, analysts such as Joe Wilcox of Jupiter Research, told eWEEK.

“When you introduce something new, it disrupts, and this increases things like help desk costs and employee downtime,” Wilcox said. “So, to get to the benefits that come with this, they have to get past whatever retraining will be needed around the new user interface and any hardships around the new file format, which are always disruptive. These are two big hurdles Microsoft has to get around.”

Enterprise customers such as Robert Rosen, CIO for the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and an eWEEK Corporate Partner, agree. The new user interface and file formats pose “major concerns and will slow up adoption significantly,” Rosen said. “Since we don’t know enough about the benefits of Office 2007, we have not yet developed any plans to move forward.”

Click here to read more about the 34 Office suites, programs, servers, services and tools that form the 2007 Microsoft Office family of products.

But Chris Schneider, senior marketing manager for Microsoft’s Information Worker Product Management Group, told eWEEK that the Redmond, Wash., software maker is hearing differently.

Read the rest of this eWEEK story: “How Disruptive Will Office 2007 Adoption Be?”