Microsoft has invited selected testers to try out a new way of delivering Office 2010 to customers using virtualization and streaming technologies.
Microsoft made test code available for what it's calling the "Microsoft Office 2010 Click-To-Run Technical Preview Program for Home, Student and Small Business Consumers" to hand-picked testers last week.
The testers are being provided with access to the consumer test version of certain Office 2010 desktop applications -- specifically Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote -- delivered electronically.
I asked Microsoft for more information about the Click-To-Run test program and received the following statement from a spokesperson via e-mail:
"Click-to-Run is a new mechanism for delivering rich client software over the internet, and will be used to greatly improve the Office trial-delivery experience via our Electronic Software Distribution (ESD) infrastructure. Click-to-Run utilizes core Microsoft streaming and virtualization technology, as well as new Office innovation, to significantly reduce the time required for users to download Office 2010. At this time, only Office Home and Student 2010 and Office Home and Business 2010 will be available via Click-to-Run and we are starting the testing of this delivery mechanism as part of the Office 2010 technical preview program."
Microsoft kicked off its Office 2010 Technical Preview test program in mid-July. The company is expected to deliver the final Office 2010 product to market in the May/June 2010 timeframe. Microsoft has said there will be five Office 2010 versions. The Home and Student and Home and Business (SMB) SKUs mentioned above are two of them.
I've heard from a couple of testers who've been trying out Click-To-Run that the promises of reduced download time are so far just that: promises. Some testers say they are having trouble with download speed and are being disconnected before their downloads are complete.
According to Microsoft-supplied Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) documentation, the Click-To-RUn program is designed to stream the Office bits to users' PCs and install them once. Afer the bits are streamed, the Office product remains on users' machines, even when they are disconnected from the Web.
The Windows team has been dabbling with "streaming" as a way of delivering bits to users via the Microsoft App-V technology that is part of its Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP). Last fall, Microsoft execs said they planned to tweak App-V to allow streaming of 64-bit applications by 2010.
I'm not clear whether these two different ways of "streaming" apps -- the Office 2010 Click-To-Run and the App-V streamng technology ultimately will have anything to do with one another. Microsoft officials have said the goal of App-V is to enable admins to make a single image of Office or another app available to multiple users by pushing it out to them, avoiding the need to "touch" each desktop. So maybe that is the "virtualization" technology the Microsoft spokesperson referred when describing Click-To-Run...
Update: Don Retallack, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said it may, indeed, be Microsoft's App-V technology that's being tested here.
"While I’m not 100% certain that it’s the normal App-V, or maybe a modified version, the Click-to-Run software installs a 'Virtualized Application Manager' into the Start menu, and a Program Files/Microsoft Application Virtualization Client/ folder. The folder contains programs with descriptions like 'Microsoft Application Virtualization Launcher' and 'Microsoft Application Virtualization Compression Utilities' and they appear to handle SFT files, a format used by App-V."
Any Office 2010 Click-To-Run testers have more to share here?