Microsoft Launches Office 2010 Public Beta

Microsoft also launched the public betas of Sharepoint 2010, Visio 2010, and Project 2010, as well as Office Mobile 2010, a version of the productivity suite that's tailored for smartphones and reflects the software giant's dogged determination to show it can deliver software through the "three screens" of PCs, televisions, and mobile devices, all linked to cloud based data.

Available for download from Microsoft's Web site, Office 2010 expands its integration with Sharepoint and lets users interact in real time though Outlook. In business settings, this allows employees share and simultaneously edit Word, Excel and other Office documents.

In Office 2010, Microsoft has introduced the Outlook Social Connector, which incorporates business and social networking feeds into Outlook. Microsoft has also partnered with LinkedIn to add its feeds to the Outlook Social Connector sometime early next year. Microsoft developers can build connections to third party social networking feeds using the Outlook Social Connector SDK, which is now available for download from MSDN.

Although many of the collaborative features for Office 2010 for businesses require an on-premise deployment of SharePoint Server, solution providers see the deeper linkage between the two products as an important step forward.

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Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based Microsoft Gold partner, says the deeper integration of Office and Sharepoint is an important differentiator in the increasingly crowded market for productivity software.

"There are a ton of word processors out there -- but how many of them let you also do workflow management?" said Sobel. "What's really powerful about Office is to view it as a platform. The links to Sharepoint and workflows, these are the kinds of things that set it apart."

"Anything that reduces information bottlenecks and lets collaboration happen anywhere, and lets it happen seamlessly, is a good thing," said Ric Opal, vice president of Peters & Associates, an Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based solution provider

With more external-facing Web sites being made with Sharepoint, anyone who's an Office user can now be a content author, according to Opal. "Letting Office users prop up customer-facing data in Sharepoint is a major time saver," he said.

IT spending is still sluggish, but the effect Windows 7 is having on the moribund PC industry could help drive Office 2010 adoption. Chris Letocq, an analyst with Guernsey Research, Los Altos, Calif., expects Office 2010 sales to be spurred by the success of Windows 7.

"When businesses make the decision to upgrade to a new operating system, or buy new PCs, they typically upgrade Office as well," Letocq said. "This is a planned, deliberate process, and you don't want those productivity gains taken away by deployment time issues."

Kurt DelBene, senior vice president of the Office business productivity group at Microsoft, heralded the Office 2010 beta launch at Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference in Los Angeles. Microsoft made it available on Monday to TechNet and MSDN subscribers.