A controversial decision to stop supporting Windows 9x, Millennium Edition (Me) and NT 4.0 in Office 11, due next Spring, has Microsoft customers in a tizzy. But the company recent confirmed that this decision is final, setting the stage for a new Microsoft Office version that will only run on Windows 2000 and XP. "Our customers told us they wanted security and reliability, and we are giving them that," a Microsoft spokesperson spokesman said this week. "We are confident the \[Office\] products continue to offer compelling value and will continue to do so going forward."

The decision to stop support for older Windows versions was first revealed to Office 11 beta testers two weeks ago, causing more than a few testers to raise concerns. But Microsoft says that supporting the older systems would be costly and timely, and that moving to the Win2K/XP platforms will result in a more stable and secure Office product. "Windows 9x is inherently insecure," wrote Microsoft's Sloan Crayton, in a posting to testers last week. "It also takes quite a bit of development time to make our products work well on Windows 9x. We determined that it would be more effective to spend that time making our products work better on the more advanced platforms."

Though many customers are complaining about the decision, Microsoft believes that Office 11 will see widespread adoption, because the product targets the medium and small businesses that have already rolled out Win2K and XP. And as I noted in a previous Short Takes blurb, it's inconceivable that many Microsoft customers would elect to stick with a four year old OS but require the latest Office suite.