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Office 2013, Exchange 2013 and SharePoint 2013 Reach RTM Stage

Microsoft announced on Thursday that its next-generation Office solutions and other "2013"-branded products have reached the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) milestone.

The RTM status signifies that the solutions are complete and close to being available on the market for purchase. However, it's not just Office 2013 that is emerging fully baked from Redmond, Wash. Also at the RTM stage are Exchange 2013, Lync 2013, SharePoint 2013, Project 2013 and Visio 2013.

Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Office Division, announced the RTM milestone in a blog post. He claimed that the 2013-branded Office represents "the most ambitious release of Office we've ever done."

In July, Koenigsbauer and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer showed off touch-friendly Office 2013 apps. These apps will run on the "Desktop" side of the Windows 8 user interface. Microsoft is also building "Metro-style" Office apps, but so far only the OneNote Metro-style app is available for testing. Gartner analyst Steve Kleynhans has described the new Office 2013 apps as very similar to those in Office 2010, but with screen layouts optimized for touch. Kleynhans added that he didn't consider Office 2013 to represent a major user interface change, but those familiar with Office 2007 and Office 2010 will notice some differences.

Office 2013 Availability
Those wanting to get their hands on the new 2013 products can expect them to be available in the "first quarter of 2013," according to Koenigsbauer. In the meantime, Microsoft will be running a promotional deal for new Office 2010 buyers, offering a free upgrade to Office 2013 when it's released. This promo will start on October 19 for those buying Office 2010 from retailers or resellers.

Microsoft's volume licensing customers will have the ability to download the 2013 products before general availability. Those products will be available through Microsoft's Volume Licensing Service Center by "mid-November," with pricing available on December 1.

Microsoft's TechNet and MSDN subscribers also will have access to the 2013 product bits by mid-November.

When Windows RT devices hit the market starting on October 26, they will contain a preloaded "preview" version of Office Home and Student 2013. This preview can be upgraded for free to the Office and Home Student 2013 product after a few months, according to an earlier Microsoft announcement. The Windows RT version of Office won't be available as a boxed retail edition.

Office 365 Service Update
Office 365, Microsoft's service that delivers hosted versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync, along with a premises-installed Office Professional Plus, is also getting new capabilities. The Office 365 improvements happen a bit differently from the RTM releases because Microsoft continually updates its Office 365 services through various "service update" releases. The next service update with the new 2013-branded capabilities will start becoming available to Office subscribers in November.

Developers building on Office 365 could see a bit of downtime during the service update transition period, according to a Microsoft blog post. Developer tools, including Napa, will get an upgrade too at the time of the service update.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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