Office 2010 hits RTM, ready for launch next month Microsoft signs off the code for its next-gen Office suite, which will introduce online Web Apps in an effort to catch up to Google and co. Office 2010 has reached the final development milestone, with Microsoft declaring it’s done fiddling with the codebase as it hit RTM (‘releasing to manufacture’) stage. The suite will make its formal debut on May 12, when it’s officially launched and made available to Microsoft’s business partners as well as members of its subscription-based MSDN developer community. Boxed product intended for consumers won’t reach the shelves until some time in June – Microsoft has yet to name the date, nor has it revealed the costs for either the stand-alone software or upgrades from previous versions of Office. Three editions of Office 2010 will be offered to mainstream customers: Home and Student 2010 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote), Home and Business 2010 (which gains Outlook) and Professional 2010 (which ups the ante with Publisher and Access). Students and teachers will have access to Office Professional Academic 2010, which contains the same applications as Professional 2010 but will apparently carry a smaller price tag. Corporate customers will be able to choose from Office Standard 2010 (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, OneNote and Publisher) and Professional Plus 2010 (which also gets you adds Access, InfoPath, SharePoint Workspace and Microsoft Communicator instant messaging). Business customers will be able to load up Microsoft’s Office Web Apps right away on their own SharePoint Server (or a hosted SharePoint service). However, Microsoft has indicated that consumer access to Web Apps may not be ready until later in the year. Office Web Apps will be available to business customers running SharePoint Server (as in the Word Web App above), but consumers will rely on Windows Live services (shown below, using the Excel Web App) and may have to wait until sometime after the June launch for the Windows Live 'Wave Four' upgrade “(Office Web Apps) will be available when Windows Live ships their next version, Wave 4, but we don’t know when that will be” Office 2010 senior product manager Reed Shaffner told APC during a briefing last month. And while this will be the first edition of Office to ship in 64-bit as well as 32-bit editions, Microsoft admits that most users will have little reason to install the suite in 64-bit mode, says Microsoft. According to Shaffner, “the big benefits around 64-bit are going to come in Excel with very large spreadsheets and massive calculations. We’re talking sheets that have hundreds of millions of rows and utilising things like Power Pivot” (Microsoft’s high-end data analysis tool). Microsoft is also looking for new ways to get Office 2010 into the hands of Windows users and pry open their wallet at the same time. The company has ditched its Microsoft Works package for a free OEM-only bundle called Office Starter 2010. This will come preloaded onto new PCs and give users a cut-down ‘starter’ versions of Word and Excel with limited features, and of course the ability to upgrade to any full-blown Office 2010 editions. Word Starter is one of the two free Office 2010 apps, with only a subset of features compared to their full-blown siblings – as a comparison of the Word and Word Starter ribbons (below) shows PCs which come with a trial version of the full Office 2010 suite – which we’re told can be installed side by side with Office Starter – will be able to purchase a point-of-sale ‘product key card’ at stores, which will contain a licence key to turn the trial version into a fully working version.