Live From New York, It's Microsoft Office 2010

The selling of Microsoft Office 2010 has begun.

Microsoft formally launched the new release of the company’s flagship Office application suite Wednesday, along with new 2010 releases of Microsoft SharePoint, Visio and Project software. And the marketing message is the productivity gains offered by the new products.

’This is an epic release,’ said Stephen Elop, president of the Microsoft Business Division, who didn’t skimp on the hyperbole as he debuted the software at NBC studios at Rockefeller Center (yes, ’30 Rock’) in New York. Elop was addressing several hundred press and invited guests at the studio, as well as thousands of customers and business partners watching online.

Wednesday marked the first day Office 2010 was available for purchase by business customers. Office, Project and Vision 2010 will be available through retail channels and for purchase online starting June 15.

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June 15 also marks the first time the free Microsoft Office Web Apps, Microsoft’s competitive response to Google Apps, will be available through the vendor’s Windows Live SkyDrive service. While Office remains the dominant player in the personal productivity application market, it’s increasingly being challenged by on-demand offerings such as Google Docs and Zoho.

’This is indeed a moment of fundamental change,’ Elop said, citing the market dynamics that are driving demand for the enhancements Microsoft has built into the new software, particularly into Office 2010. The Microsoft executive cited increased productivity requirements driven by the ’new economic realities’ and demands by information workers -- especially members of the ’millennial’ generation -- that they have the same IT capabilities at work and at home.

The presentation offered no surprises about the products themselves: The Office 2010 software has been downloaded by 8.6 million beta customers and the new features and functions built into the applications have been widely reported. A review of the software’s most important features can be found here.

The software was released to manufacturing April 19 and has been available to companies with volume licensing agreements since April 27.

Microsoft executives cited a litany of statistics, many stemming from a Forrester Research study, to hammer home the productivity gains that can be realized using Office 2010. Elop, for example, said switching from Office 2007 to Office 2010 could save two work-weeks per year for every employee in an organization, leading to savings of $13.8 million per year for the average company.

’Welcome to the future of productivity. Welcome to 2010,’ Elop said.

Citing statistics from the same Forrester report, Chris Capossela, senior vice president, information worker products, said that on average businesses implementing Office 2010 can earn back their investment within seven and a half months and triple their ROI over three years. He said businesses that adopt SharePoint 2010 generate ROI of 108 percent in the first year.

The Wednesday event in New York included endorsements of Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 by a panel of IT executives from Microsoft customers, including General Electric, Del Monte, KPN Telecom in The Netherlands, and the New South Wales Dept. of Training and Education in Australia.

NEXT: The Role Of Microsoft's Channel Partners

But Microsoft executives were careful to highlight the importance of Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 to the company’s channel and ISV partners.

’This release represents significant opportunities for that developer community,’ Elop said. More than 300 ISVs already have developed applications that run on SharePoint 2010. And SharePoint 2010 will immediately generate $5.6 billion in service opportunities for channel partners, Elop said, a number that will grow to $6.7 billion in 2012.

Microsoft has trained 50,000 partner employees on Office 2010 and 34,000 partner employees on SharePoint 2010, according to Elop.

’Our partners have been very active in providing feedback in every phase of development,’ he said. ’There’s some really good stuff being done by our partners. As has been our strategy for the past 30 years, Microsoft continues to be deliberately dependent on our partners to meet the specific needs of industries and the individual professionals within those industries.’

’We’ve done a lot of work, especially with SharePoint 2010, to make it a dream for developers,’ Capossela said.

Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 have been winning kudos from Microsoft channel partners.

Caposella also said Microsoft expects Office 2010 and the new Windows 7 desktop operating system are likely to spur demand for each other.