Microsoft has big plans for future versions of Office, but compentizing the suite is not one of them. Microsoft claims that users are happy with Office the way it is, despite criticisms of bloatware from others.

"We will continue to look at \[componentization\]," said group product manager Kirstin Larson. "But when we ask people what to take away they have a really hard time pulling anything out of Office as it stands now."

The real problem with Office isn't size, it's complexity. Most people don't need 90% of the features in Word, the most often-used Office application.

The next version of Office, whose name hasn't been decided (Microsoft hates any mention of "Office 98"), will included better natural language tools, a more proactive help engine, and Zero-Administration Windows (ZAW) support.

Microsoft also claims that sales of Office 97 in the first two weeks of its availability bested those of Office 95 when it was first released. The incredible marketshare of Office--often quoted as 85-90%--means that Microsoft has little incentive to drastically change the product. On the other hand, little Pocket Word, which comes free with Windows CE machines, has enough editing power for most users and only takes up 194K of space.

If only.

In a related development, Corel and Lotus, Microsoft's chief competitors in Office suites, are now looking into compentizing their products so that slimmed-down versions can run on Java OS Network Computers and other thin clients. Corel plans to release a Java-based Office suite as early as this Spring