Microsoft Office 2010 Full Release Details

Microsoft’s recent success with large-scale betas, most famously with Windows 7, has led the company to continue the practice with its best-selling cash cow software, Microsoft Office.

Millions of users have already downloaded Office 2010. Recent news suggests that the retail release of Microsoft Office 2010 is coming soon, with a release candidate already having been sent out to specific groups of testers in the Technology Adoption Program, or TAP, for a final run through.

Microsoft has said that it is targeting an Office 2010 release date of June 2010 for the general public. Full versions will be released earlier to computer manufacturers and Technet subscribers if previous trends are followed by the company.

Microsoft Office 2010 This release of the Microsoft Office Suite is particularly important. Many corporate IT Departments have been sitting happily on earlier versions of Office without upgrading for several years. Some large companies continue to run Office 2000 or Office 2003.

For many businesses a strategy of not upgrading their Office Suite was a result of the long-term stability of the Windows XP operating system platform.

With most businesses, and users, skipping Windows Vista, many IT groups just didn’t see that the benefits provided by newer versions of Office justified tinkering with what had grown into a large standardized install base around the company.

It seemed that Microsoft was fully aware of this status quo and went ahead with a sort of half-upgrade to the Microsoft Office Suite in 2007. The release of Office 2007 provided two very important things for the company.

The first was that another release in 2007 maintained the soft-promise made to those who subscribe to one of the company’s enterprise licensing arrangement or upgrade assurance licensing schemes by releasing an update four years after the last Office release in 2003.

Secondly, the company faced the difficulty of several Federal Government agencies and numerous state governments requiring that software submitted for consideration in government purchasing contracts have an open-source file system. The new file format, released with Office 2007, was designated by an “x” at the end of the traditional Office product file extensions such as docx and xlsx. Office 2007’s file structure was certified as open-source and allowed the company to continue pursuing government contracts at all levels.


Office 2007 Suite Half-Upgrade and Corporate America

The release of Office 2007 was met with a variety of shrugs, raised eyebrows, skepticism, and a barrage of early complaints. For many, the new upgrade provided little in the way of new functionality for the end user, with many of the new features directed at newer Microsoft enterprise initiatives like SharePoint and further integration with services and resources at the server level.

Even more confusing, Microsoft upgraded the user interface, but only on about half of the products in the Office suite. That meant that users faced a learning curve of new features and design on some products, but not on others. Switching back and forth between applications became more difficult for less savvy computer users who were used to doing something one way, then expected to learn how to do it another way in some applications, but still needing to do it the old way in yet another application.

The new Ribbon Interface, as it was christened by Microsoft, was met with some resistance as all product changes are at first. Over time, however, users grew accustomed to the new ribbon design, finding it easier and more intuitive to use. Within corporate America, the concern became, not why some products had the new interface, but rather why some products did NOT have the newer, better design.

Either way, businesses without a need for 2007’s updated server integration and upgraded collaboration features, skipped rolling out Office 2007 just like they skipped Vista. With June’s upcoming release of Office 2010, the deck changes significantly.

With most companies expecting to upgrade to Windows 7 sometime in the next few years, and both Office 2000 and 2003 starting to get a little long in the tooth, companies are beginning to develop stronger business cases for upgrading the Office suite.

Within some industries, increasing use of XML based formats, which are best supported in Office 2010 may actually drive the adoption of Office 2010 on a tighter schedule than upgrading to Windows 7. And, for some enterprises, the planetary alignment of Windows 7, Server 2008, and Office 2010 is beginning to look like the best reason in years to develop a company-wide across the board upgrade of Microsoft products that while solid, have been patched together over the years with a wide variety of utilities, add-ons, and services.


Office 2010 Home Users

For many home users, whatever version of Microsoft Office came on their computer when they got it was the one they used.

Upgrading to a new version of Office was a byproduct of purchasing a new computer. However, this time, Microsoft has taken advantage of a lesson learned with the enormous beta test offered for Windows 7.

Numerous end-users downloaded and installed the Windows 7 beta on their computers. Even more installed the Windows 7 Release Candidate on their PCs. While the Windows 7 RC has not expired yet, most users show little interest in going back meaning that Microsoft has millions of licenses of Windows 7 queued up in the pipeline when Windows 7 RC starts automatically shutting down every few hours starting next month.

In similar fashion, users that have installed a beta version of Office 2010 are unlikely to desire a return to their older Office suites, particularly now that they have grown accustomed to the new ribbon interface. Even downgrading to Office 2007 means abandoning the more useful ribbon and its flexible customization.

Home users, therefore, are likely to be looking to keep both their Windows 7 and Office 2010. Expect Microsoft to offer some form of bundled deal allowing users to take advantage of buying a Windows 7 and Office 2010 upgrade at the same time, even though the new Office product won’t be ready until later in the year.

Note: Reports of a briefly posted Microsoft “Technology Guarantee” offered purchasers of Office 2007 after March 5th, a free downloadable (or shipped DVD) upgrade to Office 2010. While the offer has been deleted from the website, there are numerous screenshots and the page is also in the Google cache.


Office Web Apps

The final push behind what will likely become the substantial momentum of Office 2010 involves the much talked-about, but little used, Office Web Apps. Office Web Apps, Microsoft’s response to Google’s growing Google Docs offering, provides access from “anywhere” to Office users, including mobile users who can finally forgo the trouble of installing, configuring, and maintaining a set of Office Mobile applications on their cell phones.

Likewise, the millions of users who have moved into the world of Netbook computers can avoid the performance hit that the resource intensive Office applications inflict on their hardware limited machines.

Finally, the coding dividend realized by the company from no longer having to carry on two interfaces, icons, and designs, means that Office 2010 will have virtually the same hardware requirements that Office 2007 had, except for the larger disk space requirement.

With few reasons not to upgrade, and plenty of forward momentum pushing toward upgrading, Office 2010 can expect a fast blow-out into the world of mainstream software.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go log onto my trading account …


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