Microsoft revealed yesterday that the Office 2010 family of products has been released to manufacturing (RTM):
I am very excited to share some great news with you. Earlier today we reached the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) milestone for Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, Visio 2010 and Project 2010!
So when they actually be available?
Our Volume License customers with active Software Assurance (SA) on these products will be one of the first to receive the 2010 set of products. They will be able to download the products in English via the Volume Licensing Service Center starting April 27. Customers without SA will be able to purchase the new products through Volume Licensing from Microsoft partners starting May 1.
Earlier this year we announced that we will officially launch Office 2010 to our business customers on May 12 with Stephen Elop, President of Microsoft’s Business Division, delivering a keynote as part of our virtual launch. Our virtual launch will allow people from around the globe to participate in our launch by going to http://www.the2010event.com. The virtual launch site will showcase product demos, customer and partner testimonials, and interviews with product managers and executives, and we hope this will give you another great way to explore, learn, and get excited about the 2010 releases.
Office 2010 will first become available in retail stores in June in the US, and customers can pre-order Office 2010 today at the Microsoft Store to receive Office when it becomes available.
Microsoft yesterday revealed the versions and estimated US retail pricing for Office 2010 which is coming in June. Here’s a summary table:
|Version||Retail Boxed Product||Product Key Card|
|Office Home and Student||$149||$119|
|Office Home and Business||$279||$199|
|Office Professional Academic||$99||N/A|
The exact contents of each version are shown in this Microsoft document but basically Home and Student has Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote; Home and Business adds Outlook; and Professional adds Publisher and Access. As always, the academic version is available through academic resellers for use by academic faculty and students.
The Product Key Card is a new retail delivery mechanism where the consumer effectively purchases a license number that will unlock a copy of Office that has been preloaded on their new PC by the manufacturer along with the free Office Starter 2010 Edition which includes advertising supported editions of of Word and Excel. Note also that:
Ed Bott has a useful discussion of the changes compared to Office 2007 which include price decreases at the low end where Microsoft has the most competition from free Office alternatives (Starter Edition will help too) and the complete elimination of upgrade pricing. Microsoft may have been forced into the latter by the complexity of dealing with new electronic delivery mechanisms like the Product Key Card and Click-To-Run, but I am sure that the idea that a new PC simply deserves a new version of Office without fooling with an upgrade is something that their marketers would love to foster.
After a variety of online rumors that June 2010 would be the ship date for Office 2010, a Microsoft spokesman has confirmed the date to Betanews. Less clear however, was what Office features will be included in the free Web version, Office Web Applications:
"The key to what will and what won’t be in the Web Apps is really based on customer feedback and usage scenarios," "Microsoft communications senior director Janice] Kapner told us. "So if you think about it, we have 500 million users, we talk to them a lot about what it is they do and don’t do, and will and won’t do. This is our first shipment of the Web Apps, but we’ve been very realistic about how we think people will use these things, and try to supply features and functionality that will support those usage scenarios." As an example, Kapner cited a case of remote users being able to check the progress of a PowerPoint presentation being constructed by the team at home, via a Web browser on a PC or mobile phone.
That continues to suggest that Office Web Apps, while free for use by the general public, will not be intended for creative purposes above and beyond basic, simple documents. In fact, Microsoft now appears to be busy constructing legitimate use-case scenarios for preferring Office 2010 over Office Web Apps.
Or rephrased, Microsoft is busy trying to figure out how much they can reasonably cripple the Office Web Applications so as not to roast their Office cash cow. Do not confuse the free version with the business versions of Office Web Applications that are not free and require a SharePoint server on the backend.
Microsoft announced yesterday that they had started a limited beta test of an online version of Microsoft Office:
Microsoft today announced the start of the Microsoft Office Web Apps Technical Preview program for consumers. Beginning today, a limited number of invitation-only participants will receive access to lightweight versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint on the Web through Windows Live. The Technical Preview is available in English and Japanese, with additional languages to be added later this fall.
Microsoft is also announcing the formal names for the Web-based applications. Together, the applications are called Office Web Apps. Individually, they include Word Web App, Excel Web App, PowerPoint Web App and OneNote Web App.
Office Web Apps are the online, lightweight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. With Office Web Apps people can access, share and work on Office documents from virtually anywhere with an Internet connection — making it easy to bring ideas to life at home, school or work.
From what we’ve seen so far, people love that Office Web Apps offer a consistent and familiar Office experience, and that documents retain fidelity while working in the cloud or offline.
Starting today, a limited number of invitation-only participants will receive access to the Word Web App, Excel Web App and PowerPoint Web App through Windows Live Sky Drive. These Office Web Apps are part of the Office Technical Preview program, which means they aren’t feature-complete yet. The OneNote Web App and additional Office Web App features, including further integration with Microsoft Office 2010, will be available at a later date.
The great integration with Office gives people the ability to quickly and easily save and open documents from the Web, directly from Microsoft Office 2010. Seamless integration with Windows Live lets people access, edit and share with friends, family and co-workers anywhere.
Back in July, the beta program had been promised for August so Microsoft is a bit late. Note that Office Web Apps aren’t tied to Office 2010 (or even Windows) and Ed Bott notes that "Users will be able to upload, edit, and share files created using Office 2000 and later versions on PCs and Macs."
Also interesting is the branding and delivery:
PressPass: Why are you offering Office Web Apps through Windows Live? What does this mean for Windows Live customers?
Schultz: More than 500 million people around the world use Windows Live, giving our customers a powerful hub to organize their lives. With Windows Live, people can store and share information such as photos, contacts, calendars and documents, all in one place on Windows Live SkyDrive. With the addition of Office Web Apps, people will soon be able to go to Windows Live to create, edit, share and collaborate on Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, OneNote digital notebooks and Excel spreadsheets — online, with high fidelity.
In addition to Windows Live, businesses will be able to get Office Web Apps through volume license agreements and via subscription offering through Microsoft Online Services.
In case this isn’t clear – this means that Office Web Apps are free to any personal user just like Google Apps, the primary Web office application competitor. Sure, you can pay Microsoft for a business subscription (just like Google) and there is undoubtedly added synergy for paying Microsoft Office customers, but there must be a bit of fear and trepidation in Redmond over this self-created threat to one of their cash cows. The only question now is just how worthwhile are the applications that Microsoft is giving away for free and for that we will have to wait for user feedback to leak out.