Microsoft is announcing the worldwide availability of Office 2010, Microsoft Visio 2010 and Microsoft Project 2010. While expectations for the software's success runs high, Office 2010 enters a market under rapid change due to cloud-based productivity apps such as Google Docs.
The worldwide launch of Office 2010 follows the software's release to business consumers, along with SharePoint 2010, on May 12.
Perhaps in an attempt to bolster its hardware partners, Microsoft is emphasizing its plan to preinstall the latest version of Office on a variety of PCs; while purchasers of those machines will have access to a stripped-down version of the software, full functionality can only be "unlocked" with a special card. In previous blog postings, Microsoft executives have alluded to the free, stripped-down Office 2010 as "advertising-supported."
Users can also download Office directly.
"For the first time, people can purchase a Product Key Card at retail to activate Office 2010 preloaded on new PCs," Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft Business Division, wrote in a June 15 statement. "For those who want to download Office 2010 direct from Office.com for an existing PC, the new Click-to-Run technology will have them up and running in a matter of minutes."
Microsoft claimed in a June 15 press release that, based on its own survey, some 75 percent of Office 2010 beta users plan to purchase the retail version of the software within six months. "We predict this will be the biggest consumer release of Office, ever," Elop wrote in the accompanying statement.
One analyst from Forrester, JP Gownder, seems to agree with the Microsoft assessment. "On the shoulders of Office 2010 rests nothing less than the defense of packaged software in general," he wrote in a June 14 posting on his eponymous blog. "In some ways, the Office versus Google Docs debate doesn't merit a lot of consideration-it's still no competition."
Gownder added that the combination of consumers' "deep, longstanding relationship with Office," the power and convenience of PCs for running desktop-based programs, and the "more limited experience" offered by browser-based applications will all contribute to a high rate of adoption for Office 2010.
But browser-based productivity software, which ports applications directly from the cloud as opposed to being stored on the user's hard drive, is almost certainly on the rise; Microsoft has seemed to acknowledge as such with its recent Office Web Apps on SkyDrive. Currently available to users in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland, the software allows users to view and edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote documents online via Office.Live.com, although some advanced features have been reserved for the desktop-based Office 2010.
Office 2010 is widely seen as Microsoft's attempt to compete with Google Docs and other cloud-based productivity programs, although Gownder insisted in his blog post that such a head-to-head comparison would be inaccurate.
"Invariably, some reviews will compare Google Docs and Office Web Apps ... as if they were meant to be comparable offerings," he wrote. "This is a mistake. Office Web Apps are a complement to the client program, more of a feature than a stand-alone competitor to Google Docs."
That hasn't stopped Google from making a pitch of its own, however.
"If you're considering upgrading Office with Office, we'd encourage you to consider an alternative: upgrading Office with Google Docs," Matthew Glotzbach, Google enterprise product management director, wrote May 11 on the official Google Enterprise blog. "If you choose this path, upgrade means what it's supposed to mean: effortless, affordable and delivering a remarkable increase in employee productivity."
Google Docs offers an alternative that will "end the endless cycle of upgrades," Glotzbach wrote, adding that the only thing a business has to risk is "a server or two."