Microsoft Releases Office 2010 to SMBs, Consumers

Microsoft is making Office 2010 generally available to retail customers, including consumers and small businesses, on Tuesday — a little more than a month after the company released it to corporate customers.

On May 12, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) announced the release of Office 2010 for enterprise users in a gala held for analysts and the press at New York’s NBC Studios. Now, Microsoft is releasing Office 2010 at retail, both as shrink-wrapped packages as well as pre-installed on some OEM PCs.

The most talked about new features in Microsoft’s premier productivity application suite are the Office Web Apps, including browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Corporate customers with volume license agreements who purchase Office 2010 and Microsoft’s SharePoint collaboration server can use the Office Web Apps from SharePoint. Last week, the company made the Web-based release of the Office Web Apps available to the 400 million or so users who have Live ID credentials free of charge.

Of course, Office Web Apps are not the only new features in Office 2010. For one, the menu system and user interface — known as “fluent” — provide deeper integration than in Office 2007, including more use of the “ribbon.”

Another addition, and one that small business users may find attractive, is the Social Connector, a feature that lets users track communications history and flows social networking feeds into the Outlook e-mail client.

Other new features include the capability to do more extensive video and photo editing in PowerPoint, and the capability to open Office 2010 documents in Windows Mobile along with Windows Phone 7, when it arrives later in the year.

Office 2010 began beta testing in November and by the time that stage of testing was completed, more than 4.5 million people had taken part, the company said.

Microsoft list prices for various editions of the retail product range from Office Home and Student 2010 at $149, which includes only the four core applications, to Office Home and Business, which adds Outlook and costs $279.

Meanwhile, Office Professional 2010 adds Publisher and the Access database for $499.

The company and some of its OEM and retail partners are offering discounted “product key cards” for PCs already pre-installed with Office 2010. For instance, to unlock a pre-installed edition of Office Home and Business 2010, a likely choice for SMBs, the product key card costs $199, according to Microsoft documents.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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