When and how will users get the next version of Microsoft's Office?

When and how will users get the next version of Microsoft's Office?

Summary: Office 365 prepaid cards for sale at Walmart? That could be just one of the new distribution strategies Microsoft has up its sleeve for its next wave of Office 15 products.


As  interesting as what's in the next version of Microsoft's Office are Microsoft's distribution plans for getting its coming productivity software and services in the hands of more potential users.

Reports are circulating that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will take the public wraps off Microsoft's next version of its Office suite and services, known collectively as the Office 15 wave, on July 16. While select testers have had their hands on private builds of these products for several months, there's been little concrete information on when and how Microsoft plans to make final versions available of  Office 2013 (the expected final name of the Office 15 client); the complementary Exchange, SharePoint and Lync servers; and Office 365, the Microsoft-hosted cloud version of these servers.

At Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto this past week, many partners were expecting news about the next milestone for Office 15 -- the one and only promised public beta. But there was no mention during the keynotes or public sessions about the timing for the beta (at least as far as I heard).

There was, however, a first-time public mention of something called the Office 365 Fully Packaged Product (FPP), during a keynote address for small/mid-size business partners at the show. (Thanks to Guy Gregory of The Final Step for the heads-up.) Another Microsoft partner corroborated this FPP mention.


Office 365 FPP sounds like it will be a new way for Microsoft to push Office 365, its Google Apps competitor, at retail. From what I've heard from partners, this new FPP "card" would be very much like the Xbox Live Points cards that are sold by Amazon, Walmart, Sam's Club and other big retailers. FPP would be a pre-paid Office 365 offering and the first time Microsoft will attempt using the retail channel to push its cloud app suite.

I've asked Microsoft for more details on Office 365 FPP, but have received no word back so far.

It's worth noting that Microsoft experiments with new Office distribution channels with each new release. With Office 2010, Microsoft added a new Starter Edition of Office -- which was a trimmed-down version of Word and Excel that PC makers could preload on new PCs (the way some of them used to preload Microsoft Works). Microsoft is doing away with Office Starter Edition, however, as of this summer.

With Office 2010, Microsoft also introduced an Office product key-card, sold at major retailers, as another distribution option. (This sounds like the precursor to FPP, except that FPP will be a card for Office 365, not the Office client.) Microsoft also introduced Click-to-Run -- a way to stream Office 2010 so users can get up and running more quickly -- and Office to Go, a USB-stick Office Starter option similar to Windows to Go. Microsoft also introduced Office Web Apps, the Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, as part of its Office 2010 release.

Meanwhile, back to timing for the Office 15/Office 2013 wave.

Microsoft officials said in late January 2012 that the public beta of Office client, servers and services would be available "this summer." I've heard for the past month-plus that July was the planned release timeframe for this beta.

If Office 2013 follows the same development cadence as Office 2010, the current version, there could be five months between the public beta and the release to manufacturing (RTM) of the product -- plus another few  months until the product is made generally available. Microsoft delivered the Office 2010 public beta in November 2009. The product was released to manufacturing in April 2010 and made generally available in June 2010.

That would mean Office 2013 is likely to RTM by the end of this calendar year, which jibes with previous rumors have pegged Microsoft's RTM target for Office 2013 on or around November 2012.


Earlier this year, I posted a Microsoft roadmap that showed Office 15 being generally available in early 2013. At this week's partner conference, several of my contacts told me they have heard that the Office 15 wave -- the Office 2013 client, servers and newest version of Office 365 services -- are now looking like they may not be generally available until May 2013. (Volume licensees and MSDN/TechNet users would likely get the final bits closer to the RTM date, as usual, I'd think.) May seems surprisingly late to me -- especially if Office 15 does RTM late this year -- but that was the word on the Toronto streets this week....

Microsoft officials are not verifying any information about Office 15 public beta or final release timing or distribution plans at this point in time. And before you ask, I have no idea whether Microsoft will be sharing more information soon about Office 2013 RT (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for Windows RT ARM-based tablets and PCs) and/or the rumored Office for iPad suite.

Topics: Microsoft, Cloud, Collaboration


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • People shopping in Walmart don't need MS Office

    For that matter nobody needs yet another version of MS Office. It's 2012 for Pete's sake. Typing and printing documents is yesterday's news. There are many low cost or even free applications offline and online that work perfectly fine. The only thing keeping the MS Office juggernaut going is a false perception that you have to use MS Office to be taken seriously in business. That won't last much longer.

    PS. Dear business managers, Stop mocking up website layouts in Word. Just stop it.
    • And

      This is the year of Linux, err wait no wasn't that last year?
      • No it was 2 years ago

        No it was 2 years ago
      • Nope

        The year before last was the year of Linux.....no, wait,....maybe it was the late 90's??
        • The future is then!

          It was 1996. And every year in between. Microsoft went away in 1998 because there was no need for them. We all connect to the internet with AOL or CompuServe. And everyone uses Netscape Communicator for everything. Oh yea, and tonights top story: The PC Is Still Dead.

          They're still saying it, though. Maybe tomorrow. Don't give up.
      • Gee, what's Linux got to do with this?

        Oh, another excuse for trolling.

        My bad.
        • you're right it's not about linux.

          Or, I'd insert my linux troll comment here.
          HOWEVER yes, a home user can do just fine with abiword, or notepad ++ or LibreOffice... IF they know about them.
          What I'd like to know is where is the database support for Access. Will THAT be included? Will programs written with Access from 2003 still work with it? Many businesses are still using these and it would be a HUGE project and expense to update to something else, or even a new version. True, they didn't kill it yet (Access 2010 is available) but expect it soon.
          • Well this is what happens...

            ...when you rely on one monopolistic vendor to suit all your computing needs. What did you expect.

            They got you by the balls, my friend...
      • What the he!! does Linux have to do with anything?

        Are you mentally deficient?
        • Sound like you are, joyboy

          Got todd's bottom much?

          • Troll

            You're comment was nothing more than a troll. The OP made no mention of Linux. And when questioned, it was you who rushed in with an un-called for attack.

            The choice is simple. Keep spending hundreds of dollars on a word processor, when there are free ones available.

            Over to you, genius.
          • idiot

            No buzzer, I responded to the trolls who posted below the AnalogJoyboy who decided to bring Linux into all this. Then Joyboy then attacked me being "mentally deficient" which makes him as clueless an idiot as you are.

            And speaking of "mentally deficient", you really can't seem to follow a conversation in this threads, now can you. Maybe you should consult Lovie Dovey on how he obtained eggshell status.

    • Ya gotta love snotty elitists

      News flash for you: You are not better than me because you don't shop at Wal-mart.
      • What, you shop at Wal-Mart and don't use Open Office?

        What, you shop at Wal-Mart and don't use Open Office, or even the cartoonish Libre Office, or Goooooogle Docs?

        What has the world come to?

        Heh, "AnalogJoystick" does elude to just exactly why he may refer to him/her self as "Analog Joy Stick", suggesting he/she/it is someone stuck in the distant tech-past.
        • What has the world come to?

          It comes to Microsoft cutting support for programs that some people have come to rely on.

          You made your bed. Now lie in it.
        • Let me understand this?

          You think that by paying hundreds of dollars for a word processor, it makes your documents better than a free alternative.

          If I gave money to ZDNet, more than you, to make this comment. Would it make my comment better than yours? If I gave your wife more money that you do, would she love me more than you.

          I don't use any of those products you mentioned, but you're juvenile approach to them has riled me somewhat.

          There is nothing in this world more vulgar, and makes those making the comments more of an idiot than puerile gesturing.

          If you sincerely think word processor A where you pay $xxx for, makes you more eloquent than word processor B where you pay $0 for, then you're a bigger idiot than I could have imagined.
          • @bozzer

            Playing a Gibson doesn't make you play better than if you play an Epiphone. Driving a Ferrari doesn't make you a better driver than a Toyota driver.

            Using MS Office vs OpenOffice/LibreOffice etc. won't make you any more eloquent. Nor will it help you spell any better (it's 'your', not 'you're').

            BUT, what MS Office will do is practically guarantee that docs you create can interface with the vast majority of enterprise systems in the market, and will be readable and editable by practically every other business and computer user on the planet.

            The same cannot be said for docs created or edited in OO/LO. I've personally had too many carefully crafted docs and presentations screwed up by OO/LO. Whilst they're both fine for light doc work or simple presentations, they both fall well short of the quality, reliability and interoperability of MS Office.
          • Your, not you're

            Don't make grammatical error corrections when you haven't a clue about the usage of the language. I couldn't take the rest of your post seriously
      • I shop at Walmart every day

        Here let me help you with your reading comprehension:
        People who shop at Walmart (including ME) don't need Microsoft Office. Did that soothe your delicate little ego?
        • @Analog

          I shop at WalMart regularly. I also run a business. I've tried using both OO nd LO instead of MSO, but they just exhibit too many compatibility issues and don't integrate with our LOB apps and systems.

          Nor do they sufficiently support key features that we depend on heavily like revision tracking, complex layouts, etc.

          Saying that nobody who shops at WalMart needs MSO is just ignorant and stupid.