Microsoft officials are finally going public with the planned timeline for Office Next/Office 2013.
First up is release to manufacturing (RTM). Believe it or not, the next version of Office has RTM'd today, October 11 -- at least a month earlier than my sources and many Microsoft customers, partners and pundits were predicting.
(A quick aside: The naming of the clients, servers and services known by codename Office 15 is fairly confusing. Products with "2013" in the name -- like Office 2013 or Exchange Server 2013 -- seem to be the on-premises/locally installed versions. "Office Next" seems to be the way Microsoft is referring to versions of Office sold on a subscription basis, as well as cloud versions of its Office wares, such as the next version of Exchange Online.)
In an Office News blog post on October 11, Microsoft execs noted what they've been trickling out recently: the set of client apps, servers and services in the "Office 15" wave will be released in several stages.
Volume licensees will be able to get their hands on the RTM bits as of mid-November 2012. (TechNet and MSDN subscribers will get the same access). Office 365 subscribers also will get all the new hosted-server bits starting in mid-November.
In Q1 2013, the new Office releases will be generally/commercially available to consumers. In other words, that's when the new home and small-business subscription-based versions of Office -- branded as Office 365 -- will be available for purchase. I've been hearing February 2013 is the date when this will happen. But given the Office team has RTM'd earlier than expected, maybe the Office 365 Home Premium, Small Business Premium and Office 2013 releases will be early too....
Microsoft released the one and only public beta of the new Office client, server and services wares, known as the Customer Preview, in July of this year.
Microsoft officials said earlier this fall that the Windows RT version of Office Home & Student -- which will be included with Windows RT-based machines, including the Microsoft Surface RT -- will start rolling out to users as of early November.
The new version of Office Web Apps, the Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, are due to start rolling out in late October to Office 365 subscribers, Microsoft officials confirmed this week.
Update: Over on the Windows SuperSite, Paul Thurrott is reporting that one of his sources is saying Office for iOS and Android tablets is still coming around spring 2013, but in the form of some kind of subscription service, rather than locally installable products.