Redmond's latest entry in the desktop productivity wars includes free, online versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
Microsoft on Tuesday formally released the latest version of its popular business productivity suite.
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Microsoft Office 2010 In Pictures
Office 2010 features updates to the familiar Word, Excel, and PowerPoint applications, plus free, online versions of those same apps.
"We've made dramatic changes to the way we deliver Office 2010 to give consumers more buying choice, making it easier than ever to unlock the power of Office on new and existing PCs," said Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's Business division, in a statement.
Indeed, Office 2010 is available in the box, as a download, and also as preloaded software on new PCs. Computer buyers can purchase a key card at major retailers to activate the software on new systems. "The new Click-to-Run technology will have them up and running in a matter of minutes," said Elop.
The online version of the software, Office Web, includes Internet-based editions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Users in the U.S, UK, Canada and Ireland can now access Office Web applications through Microsoft's Windows Live SkyDrive portal.
Making a version of Office available online allows Microsoft to protect its flank from Web-based software from Google and from free, open source-based offerings, such as IBM's Lotus Symphony. Office is now running on more than 1 billion PCs worldwide, according to market watcher Comscore.
Office Web Apps are tailored specifically for the online environment. For instance, the Office Web version of PowerPoint does not include some of the desktop version's high-performance video editing tools.
The Web apps, on the other hand, offer features not found on the desktop versions, such as tools that let users embed tags into documents and post them on blogs.
Businesses that purchase volume subscriptions to Office will receive access to the Office Web Apps at no additional charge. Microsoft has about 90 million such customers. It also has roughly 400 million Windows Live users, adding up to a potential installed base of almost a half billion users for Office Web.
The boxed, Professional edition of Office 2010 is priced at $499, while the download is $349. There's also significant price discrepancies between boxed and download delivery for other versions as well. For the Home & Student version, it's $149 vs $119. For Home & Business, it's $279 vs $199.
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