Office 2010 Coming in June, But Who Needs It?

Microsoft has confirmed that Office 2010 will ship in June, but continues to hammer home a marketing line that could spell trouble for sales.

A Microsoft representative confirmed the release window to BetaNews, after reports that June shipping was listed on parts of Microsoft's Web site.

As we already know, Microsoft will release a cloud-based version of its productivity suite, called Office Web Apps, along with Office 2010. Web Apps will be a stripped-down version of the suite, and it'll be supported by ads. Microsoft hasn't said much about how the feature list will differ, but the company continues to insist that if you're writing a term paper, Office Web Apps is no good.

"If I'm doing a 50-some-odd-page document or a term paper, not only do I not want somebody editing my document, but I want full functionality, and my ability to work deeply," spokeswoman Janice Kapner told BetaNews at the company's PDC 2009 conference in Los Angeles. She hinted, but didn't say explicitly, that the Web Apps version of Word can't create footnotes or tables of contents and can't auto-format.

Those are important features for some people, but I'm mostly concerned with the "term paper" usage scenario Microsoft envisions. It's the same thing Chris Capossela, senior vice-president of the information worker product management group at Microsoft, told Computerworld in July. "If you talk to a student who is writing a ten-page class paper, writing something that long in a Web browser is probably not the best experience," he said.

Students are a dangerous group to target. For starters, they want everything for free or dirt-cheap. If they can't get it for free from their university, they might steal it. Google's moving in on this space too, with student-friendly features in Google Docs. Besides, I'm not sure that students wouldn't want Web-based productivity, because then you could access your files from any school computer.

Capossela said Office Home and Student has been the company's best-selling version for three years running. Cut out the students, and you've got the casual home user, which--uh oh--Kapner suggested is ideal for Office Web Apps with uses like sending off a quick letter to the insurance company.

Obviously, your mileage with Office 2010's advanced features may vary, but with free options from Google and eventually Microsoft itself, the number of people who will need to buy Office 2010 in June is shrinking.

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