Microsoft: Office 14 won't ship until 2010

Microsoft Office 14, the next version of the widely used productivity suite, will be "generally available" in 2010, a Microsoft Corp. spokeswoman said Tuesday.

She declined to discuss other details about Office 14, the follow-on to the current Office 2007. Her comment followed Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's statement to Wall Street analysts earlier this morning that Office 14 would not ship this year.

In a "Strategic Update Meeting" webcast to financial analysts, Ballmer also said that Office continues to hold about 90% of the productivity software market worldwide, with a near-equal split between licensed and pirated users (see slide 10 of PowerPoint presentation).

The free OpenOffice.org, according to Microsoft, is used by between 5% and 10% of users. Google Apps and other office software held even slimmer shares.

Microsoft has long claimed that Office is used by about 500 million users worldwide.

By contrast, about three-quarters of copies of Windows in use worldwide are licensed, and less than one-fifth are pirated, according to another slide showed by Microsoft.

Microsoft has clamped down on Windows piracy with technologies such as Windows Genuine Advantage, which is more aggressive so far than its counterpart for Office, Office Genuine Advantage (OGA).

The bad news is that OGA hasn't proven effective at preventing piracy. The good news is that Microsoft may be able to quickly boost profits by cracking down on businesses that are illegally pirating Office, as it has done with Windows.

The high number of "unlicensed users is both an opportunity and a challenge," Ballmer said.

Stronger enforcement, especially against Third World users, will drive many to free alternatives such as Google Docs or OpenOffice.org, say critics.

Microsoft is investing heavily in Office, spending US$7.6 billion, according to another slide. Ballmer mentioned that Microsoft is readying new versions of SharePoint, Exchange and Office Live, all business products that are closely related to the core Office software.

Microsoft may ship a new related product called Office for Sales 14, according to ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley. It would be a server-based CRM application based on SharePoint Server that would allow companies to store customer information in the Outlook e-mail client and maintain and create sales data repositories in SharePoint.

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