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Microsoft’s Office 2010 ready for release

The software will start to be rolled out at the end of the month

Microsoft Office 2010 hit a big milestone on Friday with its “release to manufacturing,” paving the way for the software’s delivery to customers starting on April 27, Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) said Friday.

Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, Visio 2010 and Project 2010 have all hit RTM status, meaning the final code is locked down and ready to be delivered to PC makers, burned onto discs or made available for download at Microsoft’s Web site.

The products will now be rolled out in stages. Volume license customers with Software Assurance will be able to download them in English from the Volume Licensing Service Center starting April 27, and volume customers without Software Assurance will be able to get them from Microsoft partners starting May 1, according to a Microsoft blog post.

Office 2010 will hit retail stores in the U.S. in June, and those who can’t stand the wait can even pre-order it now from Microsoft’s online store. Microsoft didn’t provide a schedule for foreign-language versions of the 2010 products, but they are likely to follow close behind.

There are three editions of Office 2010 listed at the online store: Office Professional, priced at US$499.99; Office Home and Business, which omits the Publisher and Access programs and is priced at US$279.99; and Office Home and Student, which omits Publisher, Access and Outlook and is priced at US$149.99.

No big Microsoft release is complete without an “official launch event,” so the head of the company’s Business Division, Stephen Elop, will host an event on May 12 that will be broadcast from “the largest studio in the world: NBC Studios in New York City,” Microsoft said.

Some of the biggest changes to Office 2010 are online. The software includes Office Web Apps, which are lightweight versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote that can be accessed through a browser from desktop PCs and smartphones.