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MS hopes biz punters will guzzle Office 2010

Elop engages with 'millennial generation'

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Microsoft has launched the business version of its Office 2010 productivity suite, alongside its all-important sidekick SharePoint 2010.

Redmond, which typically launches its tech in waves, won’t make the consumer version of the software generally available until 15 June.

The company’s biz division boss, Stephen Elop, kicked off today’s launch 25 minutes later than planned due to what appeared to be technical difficulties with the webcast, which was broadcast to 66 countries around the world.

Elop - like his cloud computing rivals - made a big play for what he described as the “millennial generation” of users who are preoccupied with social networking sites.

He said that the challenge among companies was to “blend” those people into their workforce by enticing them with “safe, secure and seamless” Facebook-like offerings within the business.

More than eight million people have downloaded the beta of Office 2010, which MS pumped out in November last year, said Elop.

But while Elop and his counterparts here at a UK launch of the software in London spent much of their discussions bigging up the “advantage” of businesses investing in SharePoint, the company made much less noise about the applications themselves.

Perhaps that’s because modifications made to the suite of Word, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, and PowerPoint have been fairly minor tweaks after the much bigger interface overhaul the company applied to a Ribbon-heavy Office 2007.

Meanwhile, the Web Apps component of Office 2010, which comes in two flavours, is seen as a bolt-on to the company’s desktop software with the biz version being installed as an add-on through SharePoint 2010. The consumer version will be made available on SkyDrive, which is part of the Windows Live estate, and via Facebook through docs.com.

At the same time, rivals such as Google have been making strides in the online office apps space, which perhaps demonstrates well why Microsoft’s wonks sang the praises of SharePoint 2010 today.

Microsoft is hoping that biz customers who are shifting to Windows 7 will opt for a total “refresh cycle” and upgrade their MS Office suite at the same time. That might be doable, at least for some. But keeping its punters in a Microsoft-only arena is perhaps the biggest challenge for the software giant these days. ®

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