Today, Microsoft will host a launch event for Office 2010 and the related SharePoint 2010 server product in New York City. However, this event doesn't mark the widespread release of Office 2010 at retail and via new PCs. That will happen at some as-yet-unannounced date in June.
Like previous Microsoft Office releases, Office 2010 constitutes a number of products, of which the traditional PC-based suites and standalone applications are but a part. This time, Microsoft is also offering free, web-based versions of some Office applications via the new Office Web Apps offering, and the company is shipping an updated version of its Office Mobile apps for Windows Mobile. Additionally, the SharePoint server product has been upgraded significantly with new capabilities, including deep Office application integration.
Business users interested in Office 2010 have a number of options. Two versions are available to those companies that participate in Microsoft's volume license programs. Retail versions of the suite, and a special PC-only bundle called Office Starter 2010, will ship in June.
The various Office 2010 product editions break down as follows.
Office Starter 2010. Bundled with low-end PCs only, Office Starter is new to Office 2010 and includes very basic versions of Word and Excel only. As with Windows 7 Starter, I don't recommend this version of Office to anyone. That said, it does include—on the disk—the entire Office 2010 suite, so you can use a key card to upgrade it to a better Office version and not need to download the code before installing.
Office Home and Student 2010 ($150). This retail version of Office 2010 includes Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Word 2010 and can be installed on three separate PCs, and used by three different people simultaneously, making this version an unusually good value. This is the version I recommend to home users, students, and other individuals.
Office Home and Business 2010 ($280). This retail version of Office 2010 includes all of the applications in Home and Student edition and adds Outlook 2010. If you purchase a retail copy of this version of Office—that is, you didn't receive it with a new PC—you can install a second copy of the software on a secondary, portable PC in addition to the primary installation. However, it is licensed for use only by a single individual. (It cannot be used by two different people, on two different PCs, at the same time.)
Office Professional Academic 2010 ($100). This retail version of the suite is sold only through authorized academic resellers to users with an *.edu email address. It includes everything from Home and Business, plus Access and Publisher 2010.
Office Standard 2010. This volume license version of Office 2010 includes Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Word 2010.
Office Professional 2010 ($500). This retail version of Office 2010 includes the same applications found in Office Professional Academic but is licensed for use by individuals or businesses.
Office Professional Plus 2010. This volume license version of Office 2010 includes all the applications found in Office Professional 2010 and adds Communicator, InfoPath, and SharePoint Workspace 2010. This is now the highest-end version of the Office 2010 suite. (Office 2007 included an Ultimate edition.)
With the Office Web Apps, Microsoft is offering free, stripped down, web-based versions of Word, Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint to consumers and, via SharePoint 2010, to those corporate customers who license Office Professional Plus 2010. A special version of Office Web Apps is also available to Facebook users via Docs.com. The business version of Office Web Apps is available now; the consumer version, like the retail Office suites, will ship sometime in June.
For more information about Office 2010, please refer to the Office hub on the SuperSite for Windows. I've already written reviews of the suites, applications, and Office Web Apps, and have published an overview of SharePoint 2010, including numerous screenshots of all the products. My review of Office Mobile 2010 will be available soon as well.
If you can't make it to the launch, no worries, as Microsoft will be broadcasting it as a virtual launch event live online, starting at 11am ET on Wednesday. See you in New York!