Office consumer editions to follow Vista into 2007

Microsoft is putting off the next consumer version of Office until 2007 to be in line with Windows Vista's release.

The delay in Windows Vista will affect the next version of Office, too. Microsoft said last week it will put off the consumer release of Office 2007 so it is in line with the new release schedule for Vista.

Like Vista, Office 2007 will be available to business customers through Microsoft's volume licensing program by the end of 2006. However, the product wouldn't be sold to consumers until January 2007, the company said.

Through a spokesperson for its public relations firm, Waggener Edstrom, Microsoft called the change a "business decision," and said the development of the software will be completed on schedule before the end of the year.

Microsoft plans to release two business editions of Office 2007 -- Office Professional Plus and Office Enterprise. These will be available to business customers through Microsoft's volume licensing program before the end of 2006, the company said. The OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) edition, Office Basic 2007, also will be available to those partners at the same time. Consumer versions of Office -- Office Home and Student 2007, Office Professional 2007, Office Small Business 2007 and Office Standard 2007 -- will be sold on retail shelves and through other consumer sales channels starting in January 2007, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft still expected to release a public Beta 2 of Office 2007 by late June, the company said.

The software company has also unveiled a restructuring of the division that oversees both Windows and its Windows Live Web-based services. As part of the restructuring, the leader of the Office team, Steve Sinofsky, was moved to head up a new group within Platforms & Services called the Windows and Windows Live Group.

The reshuffle also broke up the responsibilities that had previously fallen under Microsoft's MSN division into two groups -- the Online Business Group and the Windows Live Platform Group.

These organisational changes come on the heels of yet another shipping delay for Windows Vista. Microsoft pushed the consumer release of the OS to January 2007, a move that means that retailers and hardware partners will miss getting Vista PCs into the hands of consumers during the traditional retail rush of the Christmas holiday season. Business customers, however, will have access to the business editions of Vista in November through Microsoft's volume licensing program.

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