Office 14 news round-up

Pricing hint, versions of Windows, Office on the web and other Office 14 news.

From no less a mouth than Steve Ballmer comes word that the next version of Office won’t grace our desktops until 2010.

That’s no real surprise, Microsoft seems to be focusing on the next Windows – Windows 7 in the hope that they can get the bad press of Vista behind them as soon as possible.

Once Windows 7 is ready to go, the Microsoft can get more people working on the company’s other main income source, Office. It also means that the Office development team are not under pressure to release a new Office on a timeline decided by the need to get Windows 7 out the door.

That’s good news because Office 14 has two major new changes that require time, effort and patience to get right – cloud computing and the browser-based version.


Office 14 will support Windows XP

Windows Vista isn’t very popular with corporate users who are sticking with Windows XP on most computers. The current economic conditions means that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

So it makes sense for Microsoft to make Office compatible with not only Windows 7 and Vista but also Windows XP. Windows XP will almost certainly require some Service Packs to be installed (but then anyone with XP should have at least Service Pack 2 installed at this stage).


Office Web Applications

Office 14 will include Office Web Applications, browser based versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote. You’ll be able to make, edit and share documents from your browser.

According to Chris Capossela from Microsoft, the browser-based system will have full document fidelity with their software based equivalents. This means documents made on your computer will work in Office Web Applications even if the latter doesn’t support all the features in the document. Most importantly, when the document is saved online all the features and information is preserved.

OWA will have developer support through an API. A custom program can grab data from an online Office document (like an Excel worksheet) to use elsewhere.

Silverlight (Microsoft’s answer to Adobe Flash) will be required to get the most out of Office Web Applications but there will be a limited non-Silverlight version available. That’s good news for situations where Silverlight might not be available, like public Internet terminals.

While Microsoft is being deliberately vague it seems there will be two levels of Office Web Applications. A free service with ads on the web page as you work and an ad-free subscription service, presumably with other incentives to pay.

This only applies to the browser based service, there’s little to no chance of Office 14 software on your computer having ads. Speculation about that seems to come from either a mixup between talk about Office 14 software and the web based version combined with Microsoft’s Delphic like comments that invite misinterpretation.


Office Mobile 14

There will also be updates to Office Mobile for Windows Mobile devices. At last Office Mobile will go beyond viewing and editing documents to annotation and collaboration with some Sharepoint integration.


Price

There’s no firm talk about the price of Office 14 however Mr Capossela said “We feel incredibly good about the price of Office,” which would suggest that, like the last few versions of Office, there won’t be major changes in price.  However look out for the usual shell game to get customers to pay more for Office through strategic bundling and pricing tricks.

According to Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s Chief Executive, there are two main competitors for Office 2007. The free OpenOffice suite and pirated copies of Office 2007.

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