NEW ORLEANS – Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has crafted a technical preview program for the next version of the Office productivity suite, which is expected to be released in the first half of next year. This program is intended to enable thousands of users to test Office 2010 along with Visio 2010 in an attempt to gain evangelists in the marketplace.
For the channel, Office 2010 SKUs will be cut down from eight to five to simplify the buying process for businesses and consumers. The OneNote program, which was intimately developed for tablet and convertible notebooks as a means to take, store and organize hand written notes digitally, will now be part of Office 2010.
Microsoft will also launch SharePoint Server 2010, Visio 2010 and Project 2010 at the same time as Office 2010 to help channel partners better integrate these products for customers. Exchange 2010 will be released shortly after Windows 7 is out later this year. All these products will be made available in the first half of 2010, followed by OCS Server, which will be out in the second half of 2010.
Elizabeth Caley, director, information worker business group for Microsoft Canada, said Office 2010 will enable the deskless worker. Microsoft defines the deskless worker as a user of thin client computing or one with an end point running applications off the data centre.
“For SharePoint, we’ll have read-only licensing so you’re not authoring content. The list price is $3 for SharePoint and if you combine it with Exchange you get a bit of discount. Users accessing Hotmail are not too secure and if they want to communicate they usually print materials and put them into a physical mail box. That’s not as dynamic as SharePoint and those documents can’t be updated or be made to be more in depth,” she said.
Peter Mackenzie, vice-president of sales and marketing for solution provider Envision IT, has most of his customers on an upgrade plan for Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010. Envision IT develops Web-based IT solutions mostly on the Microsoft software stack and has been part of the Office 2010 beta testing program.
“One of the key drivers for Office 2010 has been the rumour that the launch of Office 2010 and SharePoint would enhance the business intelligence functionality in the same licensing model. Now there’s going to be added functionality for one price giving customers massive savings. That alone was enough for most clients to sign onto Office 2010,” Mackenzie said.
For solution provider Imason, an IT consulting company and Microsoft Gold partner, Office 2010 will be the fourth major Office release they’ve offered customers. Jeff Dunmall, co-founder and co-CEO of Imason, has seen many significant differences in the productivity suite over the years.
“Customers are coming to us and telling us they want to get involved with Office 2010. That’s unusual. We normally enter a proactive sales approach with new releases. We have to talk to customers about the benefits and differentiators and that gets the customers engaged. With Office 2010, they’re already excited about it,” Dunmall said.This wasn’t the case for Office 2007, Dunmall said. Customers hesitated on Office 2007, but for Office 2010 it has turned into enthusiasm.
For Imason customers, the combination of SharePoint with Office, even though they’re sold separately, is a big driver for them.
Mackenzie agreed, saying the SharePoint is driving a lot of the momentum for Office 2010 well before launch. “SharePoint is really good and there’s a massive install base already. SharePoint is also a phased in-type of project, and one that really never ends which is good for solution providers,” he said.
Often overlooked as the third wheel in the productivity suite behind Word and Excel, PowerPoint has gone through a major upgrade, according to Caley. Part of the new offering will be a Backstage feature that basically is a crew of functionality and capabilities that works on your document to help you with sharing solutions, compressing images and overall control of the presentation. Video capabilities have also been enhanced for PowerPoint reducing the number of clicks to embedded video into presentations.
“Customers are at ground zero when it comes to video,” Dunmall said. “This is significant for PowerPoint and in the past video was painful. I don’t know how it will impact customers right now, but it’s a cool widget that gets people thinking and gives partners opportunity to build solutions,” he added.
Both Mackenzie and Dunmall believe Office 2010 and the other software packages will give an economic boost to their bottom line next year.
“We’re getting a jump-start on Office 2010 with the Technical Preview. There will be a lot of blood on the floor as the team learns more about it, but there will be a good three-year payoff in the end,” Mackenzie said.
Dunmall is looking to extend his company’s verticalzing efforts. “Our push will be on moving the base solution forward more than before. I do agree we’ll have another three-year run with the Office 2010 platform. The fundamental difference now is we have a sheer number of people in various ways of SharePoint,” Dunmall said.