December 5, 2006 8:00 AM PST

Users to kick tires on Office PerformancePoint Server

Microsoft announced Tuesday it is giving business users a chance to kick the tires on its upcoming Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 with a newly released preview.

The downloadable preview is designed to allow users to gauge how the integrated monitoring, analytics and planning software would work in their particular business environment. Microsoft plans to release one or two more previews before the product hits the market in mid-2007.

Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 is designed to combine planning, budgeting, forecasting and financial consolidation features of its product, code-named BizSharp, with the "scorecard" monitoring functionality of Microsoft Office Business Scorecard Manager Server 2005.

When the software giant releases its next community technology preview, early next year, it is expected to incorporate into the preview version 6.2 of the analytics services software developed by Microsoft subsidiary ProClarity.

The preview downloads for Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 may also aid Microsoft in gauging interest among business users for Office 2007--its major Office upgrade scheduled for release on January 30.

Market researchers, however, question whether there will be strong demand for Office 2007 and Microsoft's next-generation operating system, Vista, within the first year of its release. In a recent poll commissioned by online retailer CDW, 51 percent of respondents noted they would have to replace or upgrade half their PCs to run Vista. And while 86 percent of those polled anticipate eventually purchasing the software, only 20 percent said they expect to do so next year.

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