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Ballmer Says Microsoft Won't Ship Office 14 This Year

Slow PC sales may have eased demand for a Web-based version of the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint bundle.

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer on Tuesday said the software maker would not release Office 14 this year, which means the company is also unlikely to release a Web-based version of the productivity suite in 2009.

In a meeting with financial analysts in New York, Ballmer said the successor to Office 2007 "will not be this year." While Microsoft had not set a release date, industry speculation built expectations of a 2009 release.

Microsoft has said that a Web-based version of Office would debut with the release of Office 14. People who buy the boxed version of the suite would also get access to its components, such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, over the Web.

In addition, Office Web, as the online version is called, would include a service called OneNote, which would allow users to collaborate with others and across multiple devices more efficiently.

Ballmer did not discuss plans for Office Web. No reason was given for waiting on the release of Office 14, but Ballmer did paint a gloomy picture for the second half of Microsoft's fiscal year, which ends in June.

The current recession is expected to impact all of Microsoft's businesses, Ballmer said. Microsoft is heavily dependent on PC sales, which are down as people and companies delay purchases.

In forcing businesses and consumers to tighten their purse strings, the economic downturn has tempered demand for new products, such as major upgrades like Office 14, Forrester Research analyst Sheri McLeish told InformationWeek. In addition, adoption of Office 2007 has been slow, and companies that have recently upgraded are not going to want to do it again anytime soon.

"I don't think there's a lot of pent-up demand for the next Office application," McLeish said.

The same conditions hold true for Office Web. Moving employees to a Web-based version of an application also requires time and money for training and deployment, so Microsoft has time on that front, too. "People are going to be slow in moving to anything," McLeish said.

Nevertheless, Google, which in 2007 launched a host of free and low-cost productivity applications under a brand called Google Apps, is likely to continue chipping away at Microsoft's franchise.

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