“Word’s disappeared from my machine!!”, a typical cry from an angry user. Needless to say, the likelihood of a core application like Word disappearing is low, but this is the perception of the user. Like possession, perception is nine tenths of the law.
I would bet my bottom dollar that the problem this user has is related to File Type Associations, or FTAs. For years, the principal of “last down wins” has governed which file types are associated to which applications. Recently (Vista & Win7) Microsoft has introduced a new applet called Default Programs, that provides the user with the functionality to recover FTAs to programs installed on the machine.
Although this could be a useful tool, leaving control over this functionality solely in the users hands presents a risk that failure will occur and impact the users expected functionality. Therefore, it is prudent to manage these FTA centrally… but how?
The simple low cost answer is GPO’s; it is possible to build a GPO that associates specific file type to specific applications, however this constitutes a fair amount of management. Alternative you could look at controlling this through Profile Management software, such as AppSense, assuming of course you have such software solutions in place.
In conclusion, the answer to this age old question is that central management is possible, even advisable. Your next question, of which technology to use, will likely be dependent more on your internal business process maps, rather than the functionality of the software solution you elect to use.