Warning on Office 2003

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 11:27, March 10 2014

Businesses could lose access to files such as PowerPoint presentations, Word documents and emails after they are forced off Microsoft Office 2003, an expert has warned.

About 135,000 business computers in New Zealand are running Windows XP, which Microsoft will stop supporting on April 8.

But Marc Vael, vice president of the global non-profit Information Systems Audit and Control Association, said a bigger issue for many firms was that Microsoft will also end support for Office 2003 on the same day.

"A lot of companies are confronted with the fact they also have to update their whole office suite which requires an additional investment which they probably did not foresee this year."

He said many had found they couldn't open PowerPoint files and even some old Word files in newer office suites such as Microsoft's Office 365. The problem with Word files tends to occur if they had already been converted once from even older versions, he said.

Companies might not usually need to access and edit those files but they might need to retain them for compliance purposes, he said. "It is a very tough issue to tackle."

Vael said companies generally didn't have the manpower to manually convert files one-by-one to standards such as PDF. "If there is not enough support from Microsoft, from a perception point of view this could do a lot of damage not just to Microsoft but also to the technology industry as a whole."

He said his contacts at Microsoft suggested the company had been taken by surprised by an "enormous" backlash and was likely to soon announce some software tools that would make it easier to automatically convert Office 2003 files to newer environments. But they had not indicated whether they would be free or how exactly they would be delivered, he said.

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