Next Version of Microsoft Office Coming in 2009

Microsoft Corp. may have just released Office 2007 to consumers mere weeks ago, but the company is already working hard on the next version -- internally known as Office 14 -- and targeting it for release in the first half of 2009, according to information from Microsoft's own Web site.

The company plans to spend almost US$1 billion per year in R&D for Office 14, or about 20 percent more than the amount devoted to Office 2007, according to a PowerPoint slide deck from a Nov. 8, 2006 presentation by a Microsoft employee in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The information and excerpts from the slide show were first posted on Tuesday by the independent AeroXperience blog, which is geared toward Windows Vista developers.

AeroXperience's senior editor Stephen Chapman also reported that Microsoft is skipping the version 13 for Office because it is "unlucky," and that the company will begin "dogfooding," or beta-testing Office with internal Microsoft employees, late in 2007. Chapman cited an interview of Eric Vigesaa, program manager for Office system client applications, with Microsoft's TechNet radio chat from December 27th .

A Microsoft spokeswoman downplayed the information.

"Microsoft is always planning," said a spokeswoman. Moreover, "it's typical for the Office team to deliver a new version of Office every 2 to 3 years."

The revelations about the next version of Office come hard upon reports last week that the next version of Windows, alternately called Windows 7 or "Vienna," will also see release in 2009. Microsoft has since tried to publicly retract that statement.

The Microsoft slides show the first beta of Office 14 due in the first half of 2008, a second beta due in the second half of 2008, and a final release in the first part of 2009, or between 26 and 32 months after Office 2007's release.

The slides also indicate that in Office 14, Microsoft plans to continue building on the established core features of the 25-year-old Office suite, and will focus on three areas: enterprise content management, communication and collaboration, and business process and business intelligence.

In particular, according to AeroXperience, Microsoft hopes to improve search relevance, enhance the management of complex documents and content, bring business intelligence into the business process itself, improve the offline experience in products such as SharePoint, and simplify the building of business applications on the Office platform through declarative programming and improved business data catalogue integration.

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