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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

May 12, 2010 at 9:22 AM

Microsoft launches Office 2010 in N.Y.

NEW YORK — Microsoft launched its workhorse software Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 for business customers this morning at the NBC Saturday Night Live Studio in Rockefeller Center.

As of Wednesday, 90 million business customers have upgraded to Office 2010, the company said.

“The 2010 family of products represents an epic release for all of you,” said Stephen Elop, president of the Microsoft Business division, “Welcome to the future of productivity. Welcome to the future of Office 2010.”

Elop spoke in the same room where Betty White has made muffin jokes, Ashlee Simpson has lip-synced and Will Ferrell has tap-danced.

The company is hoping that the slowly improving economy means businesses will want to upgrade to the new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other software. The test version of Office, the beta, has been downloaded by 8.6 million users, Microsoft said.

More than 500 million people use Office, the company estimates. Many companies are using older versions of the software, and most tend to skip a generation. The last version, Office 2007, came out four years ago.

In a first for the Office cash cow, Microsoft will offer a free version called Office Web Apps. Consumers will be able to access the free version when the software will also begin selling to them, set for June 15..

About 400 people were at the launch event Wednesday, including press and customers, represented by chief information officers who buy technology for their companies. Elop pulled a panel of customers on stage to talk about their experience with the Office beta — GE, Del Monte, KPN Getronics and New South Wales education department — and senior vice president Chris Capossela demonstrated new features.

In fiscal 2009, the Microsoft division that develops Office made $19 billion in revenue, more than a third of Microsoft’s $58 billion total sales.

For the first time in decades, Microsoft faces a seed of competition for consumer users with the growth of competitors such as Google Docs, a free Web-based word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software that came out four years ago.

While consumers make up a minority of Office customers, an estimated 10 percent, Microsoft is moving to win more of them over with Office Web Apps. The free version will have fewer features than the paid version of Office 2010, and documents will be saved remotely in Microsoft data centers rather than on the PC.

SharePoint is Microsoft’s collaboration software. In the new version, the company has added new social networking features.

Highlights of several new Office 2010 features:

Outlook Social Connector pulls contact information and status updates from LinkedIn and Facebook.

Voice mails are converted into text e-mails in Outlook.

Outlook Conversation View gives people the option of turning long e-mail reply threads into a single line, and the option of ignoring all future replies.

Co-editing in Office Web Apps. Multiple people can edit the same spreadsheet, PowerPoint or Word document from different locations, either via the PC or through the browser. They can also be viewed on Windows Mobile 6.5 and upcoming Windows Phone 7 devices.

Sparklines creates small line graphs in a single Excel cell.

Video editing in PowerPoint gives users the ability to edit video, trim, build a reflection of the video without leaving PowerPoint.

Backstage view is a new “File” menu that has a dashboard on printing, page setup and sharing options for every document.

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