Software giant Microsoft has officially launched Microsoft Office 2010, the latest version of the company’s core suite of business productivity application. Although Microsoft Office doesn’t always get a lot of respect, it’s important to note the Redmond giant has kept the Office franchise rolling for more than two decades…and the suite represents one of the firms most reliable revenue sources. This time around, Microsoft is adding a handful of new features to the products, with an emphasis on group collaboration, media capabilities, and integrating Office into the rolling-boil world of mobile communications and online social networking. However, where Microsoft may be taking the boldest steps with Office isn’t on users’ desktops: it’s in Web-based versions of its classic Office applications, so users can create, view, and edit Office documents on the Web without using Office itself.
Microsoft Office 2010 includes a familiar set of standby applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. Each app has been updated with a new look and feature set; for instance, Outlook Social Connector enables users to bring information from Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn directly into Outlook; Microsoft Word gain improved in-application image editing; Excel gets “sparklines” for improved data visualization; and PowerPoint picks up improved video capabilities. The entire Office suit has been amped up to improve multi-user collaboration on documents, as well as offering improved tools to manage email and document sharing. (Many of these capabilities also tie in with the brand new SharePoint 2010; Microsoft has also released Visio 2010 and Project 2010 for business and project management needs).
New Office Web Apps take some of Microsoft’s core productivity applications and move them into the cloud…and squarely up again Google Docs, which has been in the marketplace far longer but has yet to see wide adoption by enterprise. Microsoft’s Web Apps claim to preserve the look and feel of an Office document transparently regardless of the device being used to view or edit them, so users can be confident their edits and creations are consistent across platforms. Microsoft has also released Office Mobile 2010 for Windows Mobile 6.5 devices so mobile users can browse and edit documents on their phone or on a SharePoint site
Microsoft claims Office has more than 500 million users around the world, and represents over 90 percent of the earnings of Microsoft’s business division, which generates almost $3 billion in profit every quarter. Microsoft is sure to see an in flux of cash from Office 2010 as businesses, government customers, and enterprises upgrade over the next year or so. The question is whether Microsoft can transition a significant portion of those customers to Office Web Apps, or whether Google will be able to continue to grow its audience for Google Docs. Google has made significant inroads on the basis of its calendaring and email offerings, but Microsoft Office has decades of institutional momentum behind it.
Microsoft Office 2010 is available today in 14 languages; the company plans to expand that to 94 languages over the next few months. Office 2010 is available to business customers now; consumers will be able to set hands on it in June at pricing ranging from $119 to $499, depending on the edition and combination of capabilities and applications.