Yes, Microsoft officials have been saying Office 2010, the next version of the company's desktop productivity suite, will be available by June 2010. But you know those under-promise/over-deliver-focused Office guys always like to beat their own deadlines. I'm expecting they'll do it again this time around ... and by more than a few months.
Microsoft is confirming this week that it has provided its Technology Adoption Program (TAP) members with the near-final Release Candidate of Office 2010. The company isn't planning to provide any more public test releases of Office 2010, however. A spokesperson sent the following update:
“Microsoft made a release candidate available to members in the technology adoption program (TAP). 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.”
Distributor Ingram Micro also has begun inviting select reseller partners to a March 1 "launch event" for Office 2010 at a Microsoft office in Canada. A "launch" can mean a lot of things in Microsoft's world. Sometimes the company launches products and later ships them; sometimes it uses "launch" to refer to the kick-off of marketing and training activities. But given various reports of possible Office 2010 escrow builds in the wild, I wouldn't be surprised to see Office 2010 be released to manufacturing sooner rather than later.
From the Ingram invitation (a copy of which one reader shared with me):
"Now easier to sell, Microsoft Office 2010 helps you grow your revenue, increase profitability, and meet evolving customer demands. With a streamlined product line and easier sales process, Office 2010 helps save you time, effort, and money by reducing complexity and shortening sales cycles for the world’s most popular productivity suite."
I'd be interested to hear what tricks Microsoft has up its sleeve to shorten the Office 2010 sales cycles, at a time when competition is up, and economic pressures are preventing many businesses from upgrading... I'd expect Office Web Apps, the Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, to play a big part in the campaign. (Speaking of OWA, check out this nifty chart I found on one Microsoft blogger's site, which compares what Office 2010's locally installed Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote will provide, feature-wise, vs. Office Web Apps.)
Microsoft officials aren't changing their public Office 2010 timing guidance. They are continuing to say that Office 2010 will be available by June 2010.
In related news, was I the only one who thought it odd that almost none of the recent reports about Google possibly launching an apps store for third-party products that will work with Google Apps mentioned Microsoft?
Microsoft already offers free add-ons and templates to Office from third-party vendors via the Office Online site. That same site also features a marketplace of paid third-party apps and services that complement Office. Microsoft and Intuit recently announced a deal via which users will be able to access hosted small-business productivity apps via Intuit's App Center marketplace.