Tool assesses cost of Office XP upgrade

With decisions about migration to Microsoft Corp.’s Office XP on the docket for many enterprises, AssetMetrix Inc. has unveiled a Web-based inventory tool to help assess the cost of such a move.

AssetMetrix’s Impact inventory software allows IT managers to analyze all the PCs in their enterprise and assess their readiness for an Office XP upgrade. The tool, available now, runs over the Web and does not require installation of any software.

Tiny inventory-collection agents are sent via e-mail to users and then deliver information back to the AssetMetrix Web site.

Competitors such as Tally Systems Inc. and offer similar tools.

“When you build some intelligence into analysis like the Office XP report, you start to move these tools up the food chain,” said Bill Kirwin, an analyst with Gartner Inc. “Web collection is not a bad way to get inventory if you are not opposed to an agent burrowing on your network.” Kirwin said users can lower IT infrastructure cost by five per cent to 10 per cent using asset management best practices.

“You reduce help desk calls and change management. You reduce the risk of licensing problems. It’s accounting.”

The AssetMetrix tool is targeted at enterprises under the gun from Microsoft’s new licensing model for Office XP, which began shipping late last month. Users who delay buying into the new model until after Oct. 1 could spend as much as US$300 more per user to upgrade. The issue is causing many enterprises to evaluate the timing of any planned migration.

In addition to the licensing costs, enterprises also have to consider what it may take to upgrade hardware and software to accommodate the migration.

Impact’s Office XP Upgrade Analysis determines upgrade costs using two methods.

First, the current editions of Office (Standard, Professional and Developer) are mapped to their Office XP counterparts. Second, the PC is analyzed, focusing on operating system, service packs and hardware, such as CPU and RAM. A report is generated to determine what needs to be upgraded in order to support Office XP.

“The inventory on the end-user PC takes less than two seconds,” according to Steve O’Halloran, vice-president of development for AssetMetrix. “With the inventory data we can break down the cost of the upgrade, the cost per user.”

O’Halloran admits that the end-user activation of the agent is the weak link in the system, but he said once the agent is run the first time the end user is out of the equation.

“We also are coming out with a network log-in version that allows IT to install the agent when the user logs in,” he said.

Impact is available for 30 days for US$7.50 a PC. The AssetMetrix Premier version, which includes the Office XP analysis tool, is US$15 per PC per year.