Microsoft releases Office 2010 in retail stores – should you upgrade?

Software giant Microsoft launches its Office 2010 suite today, with different versions of the package now available at electronic retailers worldwide.

The package marks the exploration of some new territory, with the addition of a Product Key Card in the software which allows installation with no DVDs, along with access to online documents in an attempt to challenge Google’s own online document editing suite.

Along with the Office 2010 suite, users can now purchase Visio 2010 and Project 2010 both in stores and at the official Microsoft store online.

Computers will now be shipped pre-loaded with Office 2010 within the next 12 months, These pre-loaded Office 2010 suites can be activated by purchasing a product key card at a retail outlet or online.

Users can also download Office 2010 from the Microsoft site for an existing PC, using the new “click to run” feature.

But the question still remains – should you upgrade?

The Office 2010 suite, which includes the Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access and Outlook programs, includes a number of small improvements over the previous version, Office 2007, but it is not a giant leap.

Users can now edit videos and photos within PowerPoint slides, use a number of different text effects in World, use the “SparkLines” feature in Excel which actually points out certain trends in data maps. OneNote also has some small improvements.

Additionally, there are some new email management and calendar techniques for use in Outlook, with the Social Connector including the ability to share information with business contacts. The new co-author features on Word and PowerPoint allow two users to work on documents at the same time.

PowerPoint also includes a new “Broadcast Slideshow” feature which allows users to show slides over the internet.

But the biggest improvement is the inclusion of the new Office Web Apps feature. This cloud-based document suite acts as a companion to Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote, and allows users to edit and share documents with friends online using any web-enabled browser.

These documents can be accessed on any smartphone as well. The suite is actually a response to Google’s dominance in the online web apps market, with the company already having offered the Google Docs suite for years. Microsoft says its offering is far more comprehensive.

However, these extra features are set to cost users a fair amount. The current recommended retail prices for the various packages are:

  • Office Home and Student 2010 (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote) – $209
  • Office Home and Business 2010 (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook) – $379
  • Office 2010 Professional, (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access) – $849

These prices may be too high for some businesses which have already upgraded to Office 2007. While the Office 2010 suite maintains the overall look and feel of the 2007 suite, businesses will have to decide whether the new features are worth the money.

But despite the debate, Microsoft Australia managing director Tracey Fellows said in a statement the company expects a successful launch.

“Following the great response to the Office 2010 beta and the success of Windows 7, we predict this will be the biggest release of Office, ever,” Fellows said.

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