While Windows 7 gallops confidently towards the pre-Christmas finish line, it’ll be next year before we see the next-gen Office suite.
In both name and release date, Office 14 looks like being ‘Office 2010’. The suite was originally expected to drop sometime this year, with Microsoft shooting for a tandem release with Windows 7 – the same Office + OS strategy applied to Office 95, Office XP and Office 2007.
Indeed, Microsoft sought to incur good fortune or at least side-step bad luck
by jumping straight from Office 12 (which became Office 2007) to Office 14. But that doesn’t appear to have helped with their delivery timetable.
Comments by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to financial analysts confirm the revised calendar. “From a strategy perspective, the next big innovation milestone is Office 14, our next Office release, which will not be this year,” Ballmer said.
Office 2010 will show only subtle external differences to Office 2007, as the suite’s predecessor has done most of the work in radically overhauling and updating the interface. This time, most of the action is taking place under the covers, and indeed outside of the applications themselves.
Microsoft will use Office 2010 to launch a massive push towards cloud computing to tap the growing interest in online applications and keep Google at bay. The new Office suite will include a set of Office Web Applications
which are essentially slimmed-down versions of the core apps – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote – which can run in a Web browser.
Better yet, that browser can be Internet Explorer, Firefox and even Safari – which should provide Microsoft with a de facto
version of Office for the iPhone
These Office Web apps will be coupled to a Microsoft server and storage farm and are likely to be available for separate purchase as well as being bundled into the suite. The cost of the Office Web apps, on an up-front and/or a monthly ‘software as a service’ basis, has yet to be determined.
It’s possible that each boxed edition of Office 2010 may give customers their first year of Office Web access for free, followed by an annual or monthly subscription fee.
In keeping with past practice Microsoft is expected to offer at least one public preview edition of Office 2010, which will based on a late beta release. This is almost certain to include the Office Web apps, both to let users experiment with taking Office online and to help load-test Microsoft’s servers.