Alongside Microsoft announcement of the beta and release dates for Exchange 2010, something else emerged – the preliminary details of Office 14, now officially known as Office 2010.

Microsoft now says that Office 2010 and its related products "will enter a technical preview in the third quarter of 2009 and will release to manufacturing in the first half of 2010." That means it's unlikely we'll see a public beta, as with Windows 7, but this wasn't said categorically.

The information came from a statement from Chris Capossela, Senior Vice President of Microsoft's Information Worker Product Management. Nice title there.

According to various sources, the final, or release to manufacturing (RTM), version will be in January, with Capossela citing availability to end users in anything from "six weeks to four months."

Here's the lowdown on what's going to be available:

  • Office 2010 is will enter technical preview in the autumn
  • It will be available in "the first half" of next year
  • RTM will most likely be in January, with the product in stores within weeks
  • SharePoint Server 2010, Visio 2010 and Project 2010 will share the same timeline
  • A common consensus is that both 32-bit and 64-bit versions will be available
  • Exchange 2010 is entering beta now
  • Exchange 2010 will be available in the second half of this year
  • Microsoft says its server technology has been re-built from the ground up to work both on-premises and as an online service
  • Exchange 2010 also introduces a new integrated email archival system
  • Exchange server email is no longer so browser-exclusive. Office Outlook Web Access will be fully compatible with Firefox and Safari
  • Exchange/Outlook includes a Mail Tips feature to prevent email faux pas
  • A clever unified messaging system in Exchange 2010 can remove time managing voicemail - messages appear in your inbox as text

The current version of Office 2007, was actually originally referred to as Office 12. Microsoft didn't consider producing an Office 13 for superstitious reasons.

Although Microsoft hasn't directly confirmed it in this particular statement, we shouldn't be surprised that Office is moving to 64-bit as the compatible OS install base rises. The ability to address more than 4GB of memory is the big boon here.

What about the web-based Office apps?

What we haven't had from this announcement is firm confirmation of web-related Office activity despite Microsoft showing off prototype apps at its Professional Developer Conference (PDC) last year where, as some sites reported, it was suggested that access to the web-based versions would be a result of purchasing the boxed product.

However, speaking to Reuters in Decemeber, Stephen Elop, Head of Microsoft's Business Division, said: "We expect fully that the full range of Office utilities, from the most advanced to simpler lightweight versions, will be available with a range of options: ad-funded, subscriptions-based, traditional licensing fees and so forth." So we will get a free, ad-funded version, but as yet Microsoft has not officially confirmed this.

And when a web-based version happens, it won't make sense to limit availability. By making Microsoft Office available to all browsers it will most likely be compatible with Windows Mobile rival devices such as the iPhone as well as Linux.