The Microsoft Office blog reports that Office 365 has reached an important milestone, as the engineering team signed off on the Release To Manufacturing (RTM) build on Thursday. The coding and testing of the suite is now complete, and the team will now focus on releasing the new Office via multiple distribution channels to consumers and businesses.
"This is the most ambitious release of Office we've ever done," admitted Kirk Koenigsbauer, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft's Office Division. "It spans the full family of Office applications, servers and cloud services. The new Office has a fresh, touch friendly design that works beautifully on Windows 8 and unlocks modern scenarios in social, reading, note-taking, meetings and communications. We are proud to achieve this milestone and are eager to deliver this exciting release to our customers."
The general availability of Office 365 is planned for the first quarter of 2013. However, customers purchasing Office 2010 from local retailers or resellers can get the new version for free upon availability, starting October 19. As previously stated, a preview version will be supplied on Windows RT devices starting October 26.
"We will begin rolling out new capabilities to Office 365 Enterprise customers in our next service update, starting in November through general availability," Koenigsbauer said. "Volume Licensing customers with Software Assurance will be able to download the Office 2013 applications as well as other Office products including SharePoint 2013, Lync 2013 and Exchange 2013 through the Volume Licensing Service Center by mid-November. These products will be available on the Volume Licensing price list on December 1."
IT professionals and developers will be able to download the final version of Office 365 via their TechNet or MSDN subscriptions by mid-November, he added.
Office customers eager to check out the new version can download and install the Customer Preview versions here including the Home Premium Preview, the Small Business Premium Preview, and the ProPlus Preview. Here are a few details on each:
Office 365 Home Premium Preview
Best for families and includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Access, and Publisher.
Office 365 Small Business Premium Preview
Best for businesses with up to 10 employees (no IT expertise required) and includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, and Lync. Also provides professional email, multi-party HD video conferencing, a public website, and shared documents.
Office 365 ProPlus Preview
Best for large organizations and includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, and Lync. Also provides enterprise-grade security, side-by-side support for previous versions of Office, and IT controls that let you manage Office on your terms and with your tools and processes.