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No more Service Packs for Microsoft Office? HA! Think again, Ballmer!

Office 2013 SP1 to ship early next year

Ballmer Office 2013

Despite outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer's much-ballyhooed push toward a "rapid release" publishing schedule, Microsoft now says it will ship a Service Pack for Office 2013 in early 2014.

Microsoft marketing manager Chris Schneider alerted customers to the impending update on Wednesday, saying it would include feature updates and performance enhancements for Office, SharePoint, and Exchange.

The move comes as something of a surprise, given that Microsoft has been making noises to the effect that large, monolithic software updates are a thing of its past.

Redmond issued Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 in February 2011, but in the nearly three years (and one full OS release) since, no further Service Packs for that product have appeared.

Instead, Microsoft has strongly hinted that its new strategy is to release new versions of its products frequently, rolling new features and UI enhancements into its software yearly, rather than launching major new versions every few years.

For example, instead of shipping the first major update to Windows 8 as a Service Pack, Microsoft dubbed that release Windows 8.1.

Microsoft's Office group has been rethinking how it delivers its software perhaps more than any other. With the launch of Office 2013, Microsoft strongly encouraged customers to sign up for its subscription Office 365 offering, which it claimed would bring them up-to-the-minute bug fixes and feature enhancements, even before customers who bought the retail, perpetual-licensed versions of Office 2013 received them.

"Of course if you're an Office 365 customer, you're always up to date with the latest versions of our products," Schneider reaffirmed on Wednesday, though he did not say whether the forthcoming Office 2013 Service Pack 1 would include fixes that have yet to ship to Office 365 customers.

Still, the release of an Office Service Pack would seem to preclude earlier rumors of a "Project Gemini," described as a "wave" of Office updates due to ship over the next two years, in contrast to Redmond's typical release schedule.

Schneider said Microsoft would provide more details on what Office 2013 SP1 would include closer to its release, but added that among its various enhancements it would improve Office 2013's compatibility with Windows 8.1. ®

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