Microsoft confirms that it will offer the Release Candidate of Office 2010 to testers enrolled in its Technology Adoption Program ahead of the productivity suite's general release in June. Microsoft previously opened Office 2010 to general public beta testing, much as it had with Windows 7, planning to use feedback from millions of users to refine the final product. Microsoft faces a growing challenge from Google Apps and other cloud-based competitors in the productivity software space.
Microsoft is offering the Release Candidate of its upcoming Office 2010 to a
select group of testers enrolled in its Technology Adoption Program.
Presumably, the version being offered to that group incorporates feedback from
the massive round of beta testing that Microsoft launched for the productivity
platform in November.
"Microsoft made a release candidate available to members in [TAP],"
a Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK in a Feb. 3 e-mail. "This is one of
Microsoft's planned milestones in the engineering process; however, they do not
have plans to make this new code set available broadly."
Office 2010 will be available in four versions: Office Home and Business
($279 as a boxed product), Office Professional ($499), Office Home and Student
($149), and Office Professional Academic ($99). Microsoft
is also offering substantial deals for those who unlock a preloaded version of
Office on newly purchased machines via a product key card;
this attempt to
bolster sales for its hardware partners reflects Microsoft's belief that its own
revenues are directly tied to rising PC sales.
In a move reminiscent of its ramp-up to the release of the Windows 7
operating system, Microsoft opened Office 2010 to general public beta testing,
trusting millions of testers to ferret out any bugs or issues before the
software goes on sale in June. "In just seven weeks, more than 2 million
people around the world have downloaded and are using the Office 2010
beta," Rachel Bondi, general manager of Microsoft Office, wrote in a Jan.
5 post on the Microsoft Office 2010 Engineering blog. "To get a better
appreciation for that number, it's a rate of more than 40,000 downloads per
However, Microsoft also faces a growing threat from cloud-based applications
such as Google Apps that have the potential to eat into its market share. In a
countermove, Microsoft is planning to offer free, stripped-down versions of
Word, OneNote, Excel and PowerPoint to Microsoft Live subscribers, although it
also plans to hold back higher-level functionality for those who purchase the
full version of Office 2010.
Perhaps concerned that businesses may adopt a "good enough"
mentality about their productivity software and decline to upgrade, at least in
the near term, Microsoft is also offering incentives for people to upgrade to
Office 2010. Until June 30, businesses with OEM, Retail or Volume licenses
running Microsoft Office Professional can use "the Up-To-Date discount
available through the Open Value Subscription to get 50 [percent] off their Year
1 payments," Eric Ligman, global partner experience lead for Microsoft, wrote
in a Jan. 1 post on the Microsoft
SMB Community Blog.
"As an example, in the U.S., this means you would be paying $35.00 for
a Windows 7 Professional Upgrade and/or $91.00 for Office 2007 Professional
Plus in year one," Ligman added, "plus receiving all the Software
Assurance benefits (such as an automatic upgrade to Office 2010 when it
launches, Office Home Use rights,\ and much more)." However, the potential
danger at this juncture for Microsoft could be small and midsize businesses
finding themselves with limited IT budgets in the wake of the global recession,
and either declining to upgrade or else exploring cloud-based offerings such as