I often think of Microsoft as being a little over-reactionary to customer feedback and complaints. There are times when I think Microsoft should just stick to its guns, be the kind of software company that it wants to be, and not try to be all things to all people.

However, there’s one area where I actually see an odd combination of Microsoft sticking to its guns while also trying to please everyone, and that’s with Microsoft Office. The Redmond software juggernaut has been hammered for years over the fact that Office is “bloatware” — too many programs that try to do too many things and as a result become unnecessarily complicated. With the latest version of the world’s most popular suite of business applications — Microsoft Office 2007 (known simply as “Office 12” until the official name was unveiled recently) — Microsoft has obviously ignored that criticism because Office 2007 is bigger than ever. It has more programs. It has a lot more versions and packages. And the programs themselves look to be packed with even more features, albeit with a streamlined interface to access those features.

The 15 programs that make up Microsoft Office 2007 are:

  • Outlook 2007
  • Word 2007
  • Excel 2007
  • PowerPoint 2007
  • Access 2007
  • OneNote 2007
  • InfoPath 2007
  • Visio Standard 2007
  • Visio Professional 2007
  • Communicator
  • Groove 2007
  • Project Standard 2007
  • Project Professional 2007
  • Publisher 2007
  • SharePoint Designer 2007

The following are the 7 versions/packages of Office 2007 (retail price/upgrade price):

  • Microsoft Office Basic 2007 (OEM only)
  • Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 ($149/NA)
  • Microsoft Office Standard 2007 ($399/$239)
  • Microsoft Office Small Business 2007 ($449/$279)
  • Microsoft Office Professional 2007 ($499/$329)
  • Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2007 (volume licensing only)
  • Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007 (volume licensing only)

If you want to see which programs are included in each of the packages, take a look at this fact sheet (it’s in .DOC format). For more on costs, take a look at this pricing breakdown (also in .DOC format).

Beyond those standard Office details, Microsoft is also expanding much more deeply into two areas:

  1. Office Servers — backend software to power Office
  2. Office Services — online programs and services that offer comparable functionality to desktop software

In terms of backend servers for Office, Microsoft will be offering these packages:

  • Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007
  • Microsoft Office Project Server 2007
  • Microsoft Office Project Portfolio Server 2007
  • Microsoft Office Groove Server 2007
  • Microsoft Office Forms Server 2007

In terms of Web and online services, Microsoft will be offering the following:

  • Microsoft Office Outlook Web Access
  • Microsoft Office Communicator Web Access
  • Microsoft Office Project Web Access
  • Microsoft Office Live (with its own suite of services)
  • Microsoft Office Live Groove
  • Microsoft Office Groove Enterprise Services

Obviously, Microsoft is trying to build an entire business software ecosystem around the Office brand, and some of these services could significantly benefit businesses by taking the corporate intranet to a whole new level. However, with all of these packages there is the potential for a lot of confusion among IT managers and administrators. As the betas of these programs and packages are released, TechRepublic will be test them, experiment with them and then report the results so that we can help IT pros sort all of this out.