Following a public beta with more than 7.5 million participants--three times the beta participation for Office 2007--Microsoft has signed off on Office 2010 and released it to manufacturing (RTM). Google may have drawn first blood with the recent changes to Google Docs, but Microsoft is aggressively taking on Google on its home turf with Office 2010.
The RTM milestone means that the next-generation flagship productivity suite will be available to begin burning retail discs and for OEM manufacturers to begin developing images that include Office 2010 to be pre-installed on new PC's. Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president for Microsoft Office, declared on the Microsoft Office 2010 Engineering blog "RTM is the final engineering milestone of a product release and our engineering team has poured their heart and soul into reaching this milestone."
Above and beyond the normal evolution of features and advancement of the user experience that are to be expected with a major update to the Microsoft Office productivity suite, Microsoft is also making some bold moves to defend the suite against Google, and, in fact, take the fight into Google's back yard--the Internet.
With Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft is including Web-based versions of the core Office applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Users can store files in the cloud with the Windows Live SkyDrive, and seamlessly transition from working with the Office 2010 Web Apps, to working with the same files using the more comprehensive features of their desktop equivalents.
That is great for those who have the discretionary cash to buy Office 2010 for the desktop, but what about the users who don't? Well Microsoft thought of that too. That is why Microsoft is also offering a free version--sort of an Office 2010 Lite--that will be pre-installed on Windows-based PC's instead of the ubiquitous, but rarely used, Microsoft Works that users are accustomed to.
The two primary advantages that Google has capitalized on with Google Docs are cost--it's hard to beat free--and cloud-based availability. With Office 2010, Microsoft is competing head-to-head with Google in these two areas while also leveraging the overwhelming dominance and popularity of Microsoft Office.
The availability of Microsoft Office 2010 will be rolled out in phases. The productivity suite will be available to TechNet and MSDN subscribers this week, followed by availability to Microsoft's Software Assurance licensing customers, then volume license customers without Software Assurance, followed by the general availability of Microsoft Office 2010 for retail consumers sometime in June.
Microsoft will be hosting a major virtual launch event for Microsoft Office 2010 on May 12. Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's Business Division, will deliver the keynote speech, and the launch will include product demonstrations, customer testimonials, interviews with product managers and Microsoft executives. Visit http://www.the2010event.com for more information or to add the event details to your Outlook calendar.
Google has been determined to break out of its mold and become a serious alternative for the Microsoft Office productivity suite for both consumers and businesses. While Google has made tremendous strides, Microsoft is apparently not going to sit back and watch. With a free version of Office 2010, and Web-based access to the products users are most familiar with, the challenge for Google just got exponentially tougher.