Microsoft Partners Say Office 2010 Ready To Roll

With Office 2010 now code-complete, Microsoft channel partners are getting ready to drum up demand for the latest version of the software giant's productivity suite.

Ken Winell, CEO of ExpertCollab, a SharePoint-focused solution provider in Florham Park, N.J., has been using the beta version of Office 2010 for months. "I have found it stable and feature-complete," he said. "Microsoft has always been careful to ensure the flagship product is not buggy out of the box, and the extended beta period hopefully made sure.

Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based Microsoft partner, agrees with the stability assessment. "It definitely bodes well for its launch," Sobel said. "I haven't had any issues with it, but Office has always been stable. I expect customers to have the same sort of reaction."

One of the most closely watched aspects of Office 2010 is Office Web Apps, free cloud-based versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote. Office Web Apps will go up against Google Apps in the market for free Web-based productivity apps, and they're viewed as Microsoft's response to Google Apps' growing profile in the marketplace.

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But Google Apps has some key limitations, such as its inability to format and work on documents offline. That's an essential feature for many users, according to Winell.

However, Google has started to make some inroads in sharing documents, Winell said. "The new version offers a near real-time collaboration ability that is pretty good," he said. "It is my understanding that the attraction of Google Docs is the cost (none) or for enterprises is substantially lower than a full Microsoft license.

Microsoft partners believe that Office Web Apps will give Microsoft a powerful tool for combating Google Apps, particularly in companies that have standardized on Microsoft technology.

Next: Partners Weigh In On Office Web Apps

"We just haven't seen any customers express any interest in Google Apps at all," said Marc Harrison, president of Silicon East, a Microsoft solution provider in Manalapan, N.J. "That being said, if they do at some point in the future, we'll just point to Microsoft's Office Web Apps, offhandedly mention they're compatible with the desktop apps pretty much the entire world is using, and let them make their own decision."

Sobel echoed this sentiment: "There's a faceoff between Microsoft and Google because both want to manage the technological environment as well as customer relations," he said. "Google oversimplifies and has always had a one-size-fits-all philosophy, while Microsoft now offers more choices and is embracing multiple ways of doing things."

Microsoft has a clear advantage over Google when it comes to cloud apps because of customers' preference for Office software, particularly in the business marketplace, says Matt Makowicz, principal at Ambition Consulting, a Somerset, N.J.-based solution provider.

"Microsoft has made it a mission to win in the cloud computing space," Makowicz said. "The availability of Office 2010 will help keep Microsoft at the forefront of the productivity suite conversations and ahead of Google, with help from partners who continue to recommend Office over anything else."