Clouds Hang Over Microsoft Office, SharePoint 2010 Launch

The Redmond giant takes on the cloud with the release of Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010

By Joab Jackson
Wed, May 12, 2010

IDG News Service — Microsoft (MSFT) has launched the newest versions of its Microsoft Office and Microsoft SharePoint software packages.

Microsoft Business Division president Stephen Elop spoke before a packed studio at the famed NBC Studio 8H at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, the room where "Saturday Night Live" is broadcast.

"It is a moment of fundamental change and there are a lot of reasons for this," Elop said, noting that organizations have tighter budgets and a more mobile workforce. Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 have been designed to meet these challenges, he said. "The 2010 products represent an epic release for Microsoft."

The NBC location seemed fitting and not just because the weather was cloudy outside: As mass media kingpin NBC finds itself both battling with and trying to adopt new forms of media, so too must Microsoft position its software packages as an essential part of office life while buzz steadily builds around new-fangled cloud computing.

Microsoft itself plans to offer hosted online versions of Office 2010, called Office Web Apps, later on this summer. The stand-alone software versions are available to businesses today. Elop noted that the software can be run either in-house or from the cloud and mobile versions for the Windows 6.5 and Windows 7 platforms will be available as well.

In an interview following the launch, Kurt DelBene, senior vice president of the office business productivity group of the Microsoft Business Division, further clarified Microsoft's approach to bringing Office 2010 to the cloud. The new version of SharePoint features the Web versions of the Office suite. When Office 2010 is released to consumers next month, Windows Live will run Web-based versions of the office software, as part of the company's SkyDive service.

But Microsoft does not see these cloud offerings as a replacement for the PC software. "We anticipate people will use a combination of the rich clients and the Web clients," DelBene said. The online versions will be geared toward tasks best done online, such as collaborative editing, but the PC software will be where people will continue to go to create documents, spreadsheets, and PowerPoint decks, he said.

Naturally, a bulk of the day's launch focused on new features, the kind that online offerings, such as Google (GOOG) Docs, can't yet match.

And these new features with Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 are more than fancy trim, Elop argued. They will also help organizations save valuable time.

Working on behalf of Microsoft, IT analyst firm Forrester estimated that a 7,000 employee knowledge-worker focused business would save US$7 million a year upgrading to Microsoft Office 2010. The savings would come from the many time-saving features the suite has, explained Rob Koplowitz, principal analyst, Forrester Research.

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