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Microsoft releases new Office to manufacturers

The next version of Microsoft Office client, servers, and services will be rolling out to select customers before the end of the year.

Microsoft officials are finally going public with the planned timeline for Office Next/Office 2013.

First up is release to manufacturing (RTM). Believe it or not, the next version of Office has RTM'd today, October 11 -- a month earlier than my sources and many Microsoft customers, partners, and pundits were predicting.

(A quick aside: The naming of the clients, servers, and services known by codename Office 15 is fairly confusing. Products with "2013" in the name -- like Office 2013 or Exchange Server 2013 -- seem to be the on-premises/locally installed versions. "Office Next" seems to be the way Microsoft is referring to versions of Office sold on a subscription basis, as well as cloud versions of its Office wares, such as the next version of Exchange Online.)

In an Office blog post today, Microsoft executives noted what they've been trickling out recently: the set of client apps, servers, and services in the "Office 15" wave will be released in several stages.

Volume licensees will be able to get their hands on the RTM bits as of mid-November 2012. (TechNet and MSDN subscribers will get the same access). Office 365 subscribers also will get all the new hosted-server bits starting in mid-November.

In the first quarter of 2013, the new Office releases will be generally/commercially available to consumers. In other words, that's when the new subscription-based versions of Office -- branded as Office 365 -- will be available for purchase.

Microsoft released the one and only public beta of the new Office client, server, and services wares, known as the Customer Preview, in July of this year.

This story originally appeared at ZDNet under the headline "Microsoft: New Office has RTM'd."