The same way that it tried to make sure that orders for Vista wouldn't drop off the face of a cliff via a Windows 7 upgrade-option offer, Microsoft is priming the partner pump with a new Office promotional deal.
The new Office sales offer is called the “Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2007 No Better Time Promotion." Under terms of the deal, Microsoft is enabling partners to offer customers 20 percent off the price of Office Professional Plus 2007. Those who take advantage of the deal will get Office 2010 when it releases in June 2010. The deal allows users to spread their payments over three years; to get training using supplied vouchers; and e-learning courses to provide self-pace interactive training. (There are other, unspecified additional benefits that "will vary based on licensing program purchases are made through and quantity of qualifying licenses acquired," according to a posting on the Microsoft SMB Community Blog.
I've asked Microsoft officials for some more specifics about the program (whether it applies to all partners or U.S. only, when the deal expires, and more). I'll add any information the company provides to this post once I get more. Here's some more info:
Q: Is this for U.S. partners only? Or a worldwide offer? A: It is a worldwide offer
Q: Is this aimed at business customers only? Which versions of Office 2007 and 2010 are covered by this? A: It is designed for business customers acquiring their Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2007 licenses through either the Open Value or Open License programs with Software Assurance
Q: Do customers get vouchers from their partners for Office 2010? Or how will they get the final bits next year once they are released? A: With Software Assurance, new version rights are included and upon release of the new version, the bits will be available for download by those with licenses for that product covered with Software Assurance
Q: How long will the promotion last? A: Promotion lasts until December 31, 2009
Other information: This promotion actually kicked off on August 1. The intended audience is small- and mid-size commercial and governement organizations. All Microsoft resellers can order license and Software Assurance packs for this promotion. Here's the link to the Office promo offer.