Microsoft unveils Office 2010

Although event is aimed at its corporate customers, Microsoft also touts how consumers can use the free version and the mobile app that access the software suite.

NEW YORK--Microsoft is going after the corporate customer with its new Office 2010 . But the company is also giving some goodies away for free to consumers and mobile users, who will gain a new level of access to its Office and Sharepoint products.

Microsoft officially launched the new Office 2010 and Sharepoint 2010 products to its corporate customers at an event here Wednesday. The latest update to the software adds new features to the desktop applications like Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint.

Stephen Elop, Microsoft Business Division president, unveils Office 2010 in New York City on Wednesday, offering a glimpse at some of the functionality the updated software suite has to offer. Marguerite Reardon/CNET

In addition to the corporate version of the product, Microsoft has also added a free Internet version of the apps that Microsoft is calling Office Web. And it is introducing mobile access to the new suite of Microsoft Office products.

The free Web version of the software will allow consumers, students, and corporate customers trying to access these applications from a home computer to access the programs and files from anywhere using a Web browser and an Internet connection. This new free version of software will be available starting June 15.

Microsoft is also bringing the enhanced software suite to mobile phones. For its own, Windows Mobile phones, Microsoft has developed a mobile application, which can be downloaded onto any Windows Mobile 6.5 starting Wednesday. Another version of the app will be available for Windows Phone 7 when that is available later this year.

Wireless users who own Nokia devices will also be able to download special mobile applications for access to the Office Web 2010 suite. Microsoft and Nokia struck a deal to integrate Microsoft software into its phones last year.

For people who don't have a Windows Mobile phone or a Nokia phone, Microsoft has made these applications available via a mobile Web browser, giving any wireless user whether they are using a smartphone, like an Apple iPhone, or a basic feature phone, the opportunity to access some of the Office 2010 functionality.

The new version of Office 2010 is all about keeping people connected and allowing them to collaborate. Some of the new features the company showed off during a demonstration highlighted this. For example during the keynote, Chris Capossela, senior vice president of Microsoft's Information Worker Product Management Group, showed how photos and video can be edited within Word and PowerPoint. He also showed how PowerPoint slides can be broadcast and people using the Web and mobile version of the application can view the slideshow anywhere they can get access to the Internet.

Microsoft's move to put some Office functionality into the "cloud" and offer it to consumers for free is a clear nod to competitor Google, which has been offering things like Google Docs for free for years. But unlike Google, Microsoft isn't looking to make money by selling advertising to consumers.

Instead Microsoft hopes that the Web version of these products will give consumers enough of a taste of the applications to persuade them to actually buy the software. The Web version of the products don't offer the full functionality of the client-based software. For example, Capossela said during an interview that video can't be edited in the Web version of Power Point. The browser simply doesn't allow it.

"You can use the Web version of office to do basic things like share documents and edit them," said Capossela. "But if you're a student, you're still probably going to want the rich client version to write a paper. You wouldn't want to do all of that in the browser."

Capossela said that he believes that if consumers are given a taste of some of the new functionality in Office 2010, they will want the full version.

"People will definitely pay for value," he said. "The free version is a great thing to have available when you want to work on a document from home or you want to share it with someone."

As for the mobile version of the product, Capossela said that Microsoft wanted to make sure that customers could access their documents, spreadsheets, and Power Point presentations from anywhere. So it was important to make the software accessible by any mobile phone. But he admitted that Microsoft has made the apps for its own Windows Mobile platform more robust than the Web-browser version available on handsets using other mobile operating systems.

"The approach we've taken with phones is to build rich client applications for Windows phones," Capossela said. "When you're running PowerPoint on a Windows Mobile phone or a Nokia phone, you're getting a richer experience than if you're using a BlackBerry or some other type of device."

 

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