Microsoft quietly announced that it will release Office 2010, as well as several related products, to business customers on May 12.
In addition, in a manner similar to what it did with Windows 7, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) said it is offering any consumer who buys and activates Office 2007 between now and Sept. 30 a free upgrade to Office 2010 after it's released to consumers in June.
The timing's in keeping with earlier promises by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who told an audience at the Nashville Technology Council in late January that Office 2010 would be available "in just a couple of months."
Although that seemed a bit aggressive at the time, it turns out to be true.
"Today we are ... confirming that Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, Visio 2010 and Project 2010 are on schedule and will release to manufacturing (RTM) next month," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com on Friday.
Microsoft executives have been saying for months that Office 2010 will ship in June. This way, apparently, the company can have it both ways, given that most corporate customers do not need shrink-wrapped boxes of the product in order to deploy Office 2010.
Consumers, however, will have to wait until the boxes are ready for store shelves -- a more time-consuming process. Once Microsoft signs off on RTM copies of Office 2010, all corporate customers need is the master DVD, while consumers have to wait through manufacturing, distribution, and retailers stocking their shelves.
The same processes took place last summer after Microsoft executives signed off on Windows 7. Corporate customers received copies almost immediately, while the consumer launch of Windows 7 had to wait until the official consumer launch of the system on Oct. 22.
Office 2010 reached the release candidate, or RC, stage -- the final phase of testing in Microsoft's product development cycle -- at the beginning of February.
Office 2010 promises to be one of Microsoft's most-tested versions of its productivity applications suite ever. The company said last month that the beta of Office 2010, which was released for testing in November, had been downloaded more than 4.5 million times.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has also begun what it calls its "tech guarantee," a promotional deal that gives users Office 2010 for free if they buy Office 2007 now -- an approach similar to the deal it offered for the debut of Windows 7 last summer.
In order to qualify for the offer, consumers need to hang onto their sales receipt as well as their 25-digit product key. Additionally, they need to request the upgrade to Office 2010 no later than Oct. 31, according to Microsoft's Office 2010 tech guarantee site.