It's finally official. Microsoft is launching the new Office, a k a Office 2013, on January 29.
There have been lots of rumors that January 29 would be the day that the latest version of Office would be generally available via retail channels. But thanks to a tweet from the Office team, and a #Timeto365 campaign/hashtag -- which I saw via Winbeta.org -- we now know Microsoft is "launching" the new Office on Tuesday in Bryant Park, New York. (Thanks for the heads up, guys! Luckily, I live within walking distance.)
Microsoft officials have been saying for a couple of months that Redmond planned to make the final bits commercially available in the first calendar quarter of 2013.
Microsoft already has taken the wraps off some of its Office 2013 SKUs. The company will be pushing a new, subscription-centric version of Office that it (confusingly) has named Office 365 Home Premium. I say confusingly because, unlike the other Office 365 SKUs, the Home Premium version isn't a Microsoft-hosted version of Office. Instead, it's downloadable, locally installable versions of the Office 2013 products for which users will be charged a monthly or annual "rental" fee. For that subscription fee, users will have the right to install Office 2013 and/or the Office for Mac 2011 SKUs on up to five PCs and Macs in total. (There's still no new word on what's going on with the follow-on version of Office for Mac 2011.)
When I asked in December 2012 for the status of the rollout of the new Office, I was told a company spokesperson: "Any of the new Office 365 SKUs don’t become available for purchase until first quarter of 2013. " That said, some Office 365 Enterprise customers have been able to get the latest bits as part of Microsoft's regular service updates, starting in October 2012 and continuing through general availability, the spokesperson added.