Microsoft Launches Latest Version Of Office

Microsoft launched the latest version of its popular and very profitable Microsoft Office product on Wednesday. For the first time, the company is making Word, Excel and other applications available on the Web — an acknowledgment that Google's online services are a growing threat to Microsoft's dominance.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Microsoft today launched the latest version of Office software that's been on almost every business computer since the early '90s. But that dominance may be under threat, as NPR's Martin Kaste reports.

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MARTIN KASTE: Microsoft isn't known for sexy product launches. I mean, just listen to this muzak.

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KASTE: You wouldn't hear that at a Steve Jobs event. But Microsoft doesn't need to be cool, at least not with Office 2010. Today's product launch was full of shout-outs to the company's target market.

Mr. STEPHEN ELOP (President, Microsoft Business Division): As we've heard today from General Electric, KPN, Del Monte, the 2010 family of products represent an epic release for all of you.

KASTE: That's Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's Business Division, wearing a suit, by the way. Microsoft makes billions selling the Office software to corporate customers, companies that are already used to Outlook and Word. Office 2010 adds more Internet options to the old suite of programs, and it makes it easier for employees to collaborate on the Web, using software called SharePoint. It's the kind of new option that Microsoft hopes will keep its corporate customers paying for the upgrades.

Mr. ELOP: We are very proud to call Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 our own. They define our collective future.

KASTE: But that future is being challenged. Dave Girouard is president of the Enterprise Division at Google.

Mr. DAVE GIROUARD (President, Google Enterprise Division): The era of desktop software is waning and it's waning quickly. We view technology as moving to the cloud.

KASTE: The cloud meaning online. Online word processors and spreadsheet programs and so on; products that Google offers right now, free to individuals and relatively cheap to corporate customers. Some big companies are already making the switch to online software, though most still prefer to buy software and keep it on their own computers.

But Microsoft is giving some ground to the cloud. It says it's putting parts of Office 2010 online too.

Martin Kaste, NPR News, Seattle.

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