(AP) - Citing "product performance" issues, Microsoft Corp. on Thursday postponed the release of the next version of its Office business software suite.
In a statement released by the company's Waggener Edstrom public relations firm, Microsoft said it now plans to release the product to big business customers by the end of the year, instead of in October as planned, reports Trend.
Consumers and other business users are now scheduled to get the product in early 2007. Microsoft had previously said it would be broadly available in January, to coincide with the delayed release of Microsoft's Windows Vista computer operating system.
"Feedback on quality and performance will ultimately determine the exact dates," the company said in the statement.
Microsoft has made early versions, or betas, of Office 2007 available for technical experts to download and test. In the statement, Redmond-based Microsoft said the delay was due to "internal testing and the beta 2 feedback around product performance."
The company declined to comment further.
Gartner analyst David Smith said it wasn't surprising or particularly unusual in this industry for a company not to meet its scheduled release dates.
"I'm never surprised when software's delayed never especially Microsoft's," he said.
Smith said he thought the main impact could be on big corporations who have signed licensing agreements and may now not get the software within the time that their agreement covers.
"It increases the pressure on Microsoft to have to do something to make those companies whole," he said.
The release of the next version of Office, which includes popular programs like Outlook, Excel and Word, is important for Microsoft because, despite its expansion into other fields, the company still depends on Office and Windows for the bulk of its profits.
But Microsoft faces a tough challenge in convincing users to upgrade from previous versions of Office. The company also is hoping to sell users on a slew of other related products for things like note-taking and advanced communications, as a way to grow revenue amid a more saturated market for the traditional Office software.
The new version of Windows, called Vista, also has faced a number of delays. It is currently scheduled to be released to consumers in January, missing the all-important holiday season. Big business users who sign licensing agreements are slated to get the system in November.
In a statement, Microsoft's Waggener Edstrom public relations firm said Microsoft is still hoping to meet those Vista release dates, but that could change.
"Windows Vista target dates for availability remain the same. Ultimately, the final, exact delivery dates will be determined based on quality," the statement said.
Microsoft shares rose 31 cents, or 1.3 percent, to close at $23.47 in trading Thursday on the Nasdaq Stock Market.