Microsoft will release Office 2010 in June 2010, according to the company, providing a firmer date for the release of next edition of its productivity software. Previously, Microsoft executives would only narrow it down to the first half of 2010.
"We expect Office 2010 and related products to be generally available in June 2010," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mail to eWEEK on Dec. 1.
At the Professional Developers Conference held Nov. 17 to 19 in Los Angeles, Microsoft released the beta versions of Office 2010, SharePoint Server 2010, Project 2010, Visio 2010, Office Mobile 2010 and Office Web Apps. All the beta versions can be downloaded from this site.
Microsoft is likely hoping to draw on an expansive pool of beta testers to refine Office 2010 ahead of its summer release. Unlike previous, more desktop-oriented versions of Office, this version of the productivity suite attempts to embrace the cloud: Stripped-down, browser-accessible editions of OneNote, Excel, Word and PowerPoint will be made available to Microsoft Live subscribers for free, allowing them to access and edit documents online. However, the broadest range of tools will only be available to those who purchase the full version of Office 2010.
The full eWEEK review of the Office 2010 beta can be found here. Improvements include sidebar enhancements to Word 2010-such as a Navigation Pane that replaces Word 2007's Document Map feature-as well as contextual spell-checking ("I can't wait to meat you," for example, is duly corrected); Excel 2010 features tweaks to PivotTable, PivotChart and conditional formatting; and additions to Access include alerting the user to blocked active content.
Office faces a new challenge from cloud-based productivity programs such as Google Apps, many of which are free, and some of which have the potential to erode Microsoft's market share.
Microsoft's plans for retaining that market share include Office 2010 Starter, a version of the suite that will come preinstalled on PCs produced by major manufacturers. The advertising-supported Starter Edition will replace Microsoft Works and will offer streamlined versions of Word and Excel with which documents can be created, viewed and saved. In order to upgrade to the full Office 2010, which will already be present on the PC's hard drive, users will need to purchase a single-use license on a plastic card from a retailer such as Best Buy.
Along with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008, Office 2010 represents Microsoft's attempt to revive its fortunes after a few quarters of declining revenue reports. For their part, Microsoft's manufacturing partners likely hope that a massive software platform refresh will encourage both businesses and consumers to purchase new hardware.