Microsoft officially launched the new Office 2010 in NYC today. In addition to the full-featured version, there will be a free Internet version starting June 15. A mobile application for Windows Mobile phones is available for download today. iPhone and most other platforms will be limited to accessing the applications via a mobile Web browser.
With a free version online, will customers want to upgrade?
“You can use the Web version of office to do basic things like share documents and edit them,” said [senior vice president of Microsoft’s Information Worker Product Management Group, Chris] Capossela. “But if you’re a student, you’re still probably going to want the rich client version to write a paper. You wouldn’t want to do all of that in the browser.”
Capossela said that he believes that if consumers are given a taste of some of the new functionality in Office 2010, they will want the full version.
“People will definitely pay for value,” he said. “The free version is a great thing to have available when you want to work on a document from home or you want to share it with someone.”
Wired’s Christopher Null has tried it, and finds it wanting:
Unfortunately, Web Apps won’t be challenging Google Docs (or any other online document editor) anytime soon, as it’s uncommonly convoluted and buggy. Once you jump through all the hurdles to share a doc (even saving a file to SkyDrive is a pain), more often than not, it just won’t open for editing, or you’ll be prompted to re-save them in a different format. You can open Word docs and view them, but you can’t edit them — the mother of all WTFs. And the frequent prompts to install Microsoft Silverlight won’t be winning Web Apps many friends, either. Ultimately, if your collaborator has any version of Office, just sending an attachment is infinitely more convenient and quicker.
Printing is another problem. Rendering previews — required in order to print — can take 15 seconds before even allowing you to click the print button. Null says, “For busy admin types, this is a deal killer.”
While Outlook got the most significant overhaul, the spam filter is still so bad that “Microsoft should simply give up and retire it at this point.” So what’s the sweetest new feature? A Conversation View that groups all emails from a thread into one item. “It’s more intelligent and more capable than anything Gmail currently has.”
Other highlights include basic video editing within PowerPoint, customizable ribbons throughout the suite, a more polished look and better reminders to remove personal information from documents for distribution.
Business users are fairly well locked in. Google Apps has only a 4% (but growing) share of the market. Microsoft made $19 billion last year from its business software products, with Office contributing the bulk of that. Google made a pitch on its blog Tuesday for businesses to skip Office and go with Docs featuring a chart of Docs’ ostensible advantages.
While businesses are unlikely to defect, there’s little in Office 2010 attractive enough to justify the price tag to home users. Or win over the students Capossela expects to attract through Office Web Apps. Still, consumer sales of Office have risen in the double-digits over the last two quarters. Their money machine looks likely to trundle on for a while longer.