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Microsoft Unveils Office 2010 System Requirements

Microsoft described the hardware requirements for Office 2010 late last week, and the good news is that the productivity suite should run on machines that were capable of running Office 2007.

Office 2010 will have nearly the same system requirements as Office 2007, although Microsoft added a requirement for graphics processing units (GPUs). Office 2010 should even be capable of running on netbooks, according to Alex Dubec, a program manager on the Microsoft Office Trustworthy Computing performance team.

"One of the pieces of feedback we've received from customers is that they really, really hate having to buy new hardware every time a new version of Office is released," Dubec wrote in a blog describing the new requirements.

CPU and RAM requirements did not increase this time for Office 2010. That approach contrasts with the near doubling of those requirements between Office 2003 and Office 2007 versions, Dubec noted. Microsoft plans to release Office 2010 in June, although it's currently available as a public beta release for testing.

Dubec listed Office 2010's minimum system requirements, which he defined as describing "the kind of computer that an average Office customer needs to have in order to have an acceptable experience performing typical tasks." The company is not releasing "recommended" hardware requirements because having two requirements is just too confusing to users, Dubec explained.

The minimum system requirements for Office 2010 include: Intel Pentium III processor, 500 MHz; 256 MB PC100 SDRAM; and Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 3. In contrast, Office 2003 specified a 233 MHz processor and 128 MB of RAM.

Office 2010 takes up more disk space compared with Office 2007 and Office 2003, with the suites occupying an additional 1.0 GB or 1.5 GB. Reasons for the expanded disk use include the code requirements of 64-bit Office, the inclusion of OneNote, optional free trial versions of Office Professional 2010 and the use of the Ribbon user interface throughout the suite.

Unlike Office 2007, Office 2010 has a GPU requirement. Office 2010 assumes a minimum of Microsoft DirectX 9.0c-compliant graphics processors with 64 MB of video memory. This added capability helps to increase graphics rendering in Excel, as well as graphics and video integration features in PowerPoint. Computers with multicore processors will run Office 2010 even faster, Dubec said in the blog. The requirements are relatively low, he added, and will not be an issue for netbooks, which generally are capable of using up to 224 MB or 256 MB of memory.

The 32-bit versions of Office 2010 will run on a variety of 32-bit operating systems, including Windows 7, Windows Vista Service Pack 1, Windows XP SP3, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2003 R2 with MSXML 6.0.

The 64-bit versions of Office 2010 will run on all 64-bit versions of Windows 7, Windows Vista SP1, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008. They will not run on Windows Server 2003 R2 with MSXML 6.0 or Windows XP SP3.

Enterprise customers considering moving to Office 2010 likely will be interested several new features, according to Forrester Research analyst Sheri McLeish in a recent report. Features of note, according to McLeish, include external document collaboration in SharePoint, the option of accessing Office apps from a private cloud and the use of social networking through Outlook.

Company needs and expectations around the use of multimedia content is another factor to consider. "For marketing or companies focused on highly professional content, these capabilities [in Office 2010] will help."

In her report, McLeish wrote that there were three issues about Office 2010 that enterprises should understand:

  • Some applications that were written for 32-bit Office will not work in a 64-bit process.
  • Because the Visual Basic for Applications language was upgraded to support 64-bit, and the object model has been updated, more effort for remediation may be needed for bulk conversions and migrating content.
  • Initial use of new features may not be seamless.

Enterprises typically consider upgrading hardware and software every few years, but factors such as the economy can affect that timeline, as well as considerations about using hosted services. "There is an understanding that these are the types of investments that can probably be pushed out, so the cycle is rather delicate," McLeish said. "On the heels of the recession, we're seeing the rise of the cloud, which is disruptive to the product release cycle."

Large enterprises that have existing upgrade agreements with Microsoft should not hesitate to go ahead with Office 2010, McLeish said in an interview. Office 2010 is expected to be "relatively painless" to learn for workers already familiar with the Ribbon menu format introduced in Office 2007.

While there are alternatives to Office 2010, "the expectation is that Microsoft is investing heavily to stay ahead of the competition," she said. "It has a lot banking on Office 2010."

About the Author

Anne Watkins is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn, New York.

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