The truth is out there--sort of. While there are few firm details about Office 2010--the version of Office that will succeed Office 2007 in the first half of 2010--Microsoft has finally begun discussing the roadmap for this release and the general direction it is heading. Presumably, we'll see more ribbon-ized applications and a more customizable ribbon all around, but we'll have to wait and see. No, it's not much yet, but here's what we know about Office 2010.

Note: Know about something Office 2010 that's not in the FAQ? Drop me a line and I'll add it here! --Paul

Q: What is Office 2010?

A: Office 2010 (previously codenamed Office 14) is the next version of the Microsoft Office System, a suite of PC applications, mobile applications, servers, and services, and the successor to Office 2007.

Q: Office 14?

A: 14 is the version number. Office 2007 was called Office 12 internally at Microsoft. The company skipped 13 for superstitious (i.e. fun) reasons.

Q: When will Office 2010 ship?

A: Microsoft says it will ship the Office 2010 clients (i.e. the end user applications that make up the Office 2010 suite) in "the first half of 2010," along with other parts of the Office 2010 System, including Office Web Applications, SharePoint Server 2010, Visio 2010 and Project 2010. However, certain components of the Office 2010 System will ship before then: Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 will ship in "the fourth quarter of 2009," according to the software giant. Up in the air is the next version of Office Mobile (sometimes called "Pocket Office") for Windows Mobile though Microsoft has made it clear that the Office 2010 wave will include an update there as well.

Q: Will there be a public beta test?

A: Yes. Microsoft plans to ship two pre-release versions of Office 2010 to the public. The first, called the Office 2010 Technical Preview, will ship in July to a limited set of testers. You can sign-up to get on the waiting list for this release now.

The second public release will be a broader public beta that will be available to any and all via a free download from the Microsoft web site. That release is expected in Q3 2009.

Q: Will the beta be made available to the public?

A: Yes, and contrary to widespread but erroneous reports stating otherwise. "The Office 2010 technical preview is an invite-only program, but this will be followed by a public beta where millions can try out Office 2010," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "There definitely will be a public beta."

I heard that Office 2010 will be available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Is this true?

A: Apparently so. But it's unclear at this time whether they will be sold separately or whether you can choose between the two versions during Setup. Also unclear is what real world benefit a 64-bit version of Word or any other Office application would provide.

Q: What do we know about the Office 2010 application suite?

A: Not much. Early Microsoft documentation for Office 2010 revealed the following high-level information about this suite:

1. Individual Impact

Objective: Continued focus on individual productivity and effectiveness

Microsoft will continue to invest in providing tools for individuals to be productive and effective. The company will be working to make individuals more self-sufficient by enabling them to perform more sophisticated tasks themselves and providing more self and community-based help options. Office 14 will include improved search relevancy and refinement of the result-oriented database.

2. Communication and Collaboration

Objective: Enable better communication and more efficient information sharing to keep communities, co-workers, partners and customers in sync.

Microsoft will continue to invest in team effectiveness and will be expanding this to include further unification of communications and the ability to work easily with partners and customers. There will be deeper Unified Communications integration with Office 14, including capabilities that make communications and collaboration more convenient to the user (regardless of device or connectivity) and manageable by IT (through unified identity and robust policy/compliance support).

3. Enterprise Content Management

Objective: Author, Manage and Organize Complex Documents and Content

Microsoft will expand what it provided in Office 2007 for document management to allow better management of complex documents and content. The company will be making sure it keeps the overhead of document management to a minimum and that it is simple for end users to participate in document management processes. Office 14 will include a flexible storage solution for Digital Asset Management.

4. Business Process and Business Intelligence

Objective: Make the right information available throughout the business processes

Microsoft will make it easy to find, analyze and use the expertise and data hidden within an organization and its business systems to make better informed decisions personally and within a team, while continuing to work within a business process or workflow. Office 14 will bring business intelligence (BI) to business processes, instead of having BI as an isolated and as-needed activity.

5. Office Business Platform

Objective: Make it simple to build client & web-based business applications

For corporate developers, Microsoft will deliver a platform on which they can easily build and deliver rich solutions that incorporate workflow, business system integration and Office client familiarity. Office 14 will include Declarative Programming advances and improved Business Data Catalog (BDC) integration.

6. Manageability and Security

Objective: Make it easy to deploy and manage around the globe

Microsoft has made great strides in the last few years on the security, reliability, and deployment of Office, and will continue to invest in these fundamentals. Microsoft will also continue to make global deployments easier with federated, offline and virtualized models. Office 14 will further improve offline experience in products such as SharePoint and assist global deployments via federated and virtualized deployments.

More recently, Microsoft has said that Office 2010 would help people address the following challenges:

  • The blurring of the line between home and work.
  • The need to access and manage information wherever they are, at home, at work, or on the go.
  • The need to decrease costs at work while improving productivity.
  • The need to comply with new and increasing regulatory mandates and security protocols.

"With these new products we are giving people a familiar interface across PCs, mobile phones and browsers to make it even easier for them to create, communicate and collaborate from any location," Microsoft senior vice president Chris Capossela has said. "IT professionals will benefit from a choice of new delivery and new licensing models as well as from improved management options to better control costs, and enhanced security across all locations. And through our integrated infrastructure, businesses can more easily deploy, manage and help secure corporate assets and comply with government regulations."

Q: That's not very specific. Anything else?

A: You're right, it's not. Microsoft has been very close-lipped about this release. Speaking a bit more specifically--and only a bit--Capossela also revealed that Office 2010 would address the following scenarios:

  • People want to stay connected to each other.
  • Customers want an easy way to bring their ideas to life, and they want the freedom to use Office from more locations and on more devices.
  • Make it even easier for people to create and collaborate in real time using the web, the phone or their PC.
  • Business users will be able to get deeper insight into their business processes, and easily find and access the information they need to be more productive.
  • IT professionals will have more flexibility and choice to simplify deployment and lower management costs, while maintaining control.

Q: Anything else?

A: We do know that Microsoft will be extending the ribbon user interface it debuted in Office 2007 to more applications in the Office 2010 suite. For example, Microsoft has publicly demonstrated a version of OneNote 2010 that includes this UI, and recently showed off Outlook 2010 shots that include the ribbon as well.


Outlook 2010 features the ribbon UI.

Also, Microsoft's recent revelations about Exchange 2010 have revealed a few Outlook 2010 features, though these will likely require Exchange 2010 on the back-end as well. They include:

MailTips. Warn users before they commit an e-mail faux pas such as sending mail to large distribution groups, to recipients who are out of the office or to recipients outside the organization, helping protect against information leaks and reduce unnecessary e-mail messages.

Voice Mail Preview. See text previews of voice mail directly in Outlook.

Ignore Conversation. This e-mail "mute button" allows people to remove themselves from an irrelevant e-mail string, reducing unwanted e-mail and runaway reply-all threads.

Conversation View. Combine related e-mail messages in a single conversation to reduce inbox clutter.

Call Answering Rules. Create customized "Press 1 for ..." call-routing menus with Exchange voice mail.

Microsoft also hints that it will offer a consistent experience across Outlook on the PC, a mobile phone or a browser.

Q: Any word yet about the different product versions (SKUs) that Office 2010 will provide?

A: No.

Q: What is Office Web Applications?

A: Office Web Applications is a set of lightweight versions of some traditional Office applications that run from the web, like Google Docs. These include Word Web, Excel Web, PowerPoint Web, and OneNote Web. Office Web Applications allow you to view, edit, and collaborate on Office docs in a web browser.

There will be at least two versions of Office Web Applications, a free but ad-supported version for consumers and an ad-free version for businesses that opt into a hosted subscription service or volume-licensing agreement with Microsoft.

See my article, Microsoft Office 2010 Web Applications Preview, for more information.

Q: How does Office Web Applications relate to Office Live?

A: Currently, Office Live comprises two services, Office Live Small Business and Office Live Workspace. Microsoft stated in early 2009 that it will be merging its Office Live and Windows Live services under a new brand by the time that Office 2010 ships next year. We don't have any further information at this time, though Microsoft did provide the following statement, "To simplify and improve the customer experience around its Live services, Microsoft made the decision to converge Windows Live and Office Live into an integrated set of services at one single destination."

Q: What about Office for the iPhone?

A: Microsoft has never committed to making such a thing. However, at the Web 2.0 Conference in April 2009, Microsoft president Stephen Elop hinted that Microsoft was at least thinking about how it could bring the Office experience to Apple's mobile phenomenon.