US, Canada can download Office 2007 Dec. 1

Microsoft Corp. Monday confirmed that it has completed work on Office 2007’s system code and released it to manufacturing.

Customers in Canada and the United States can start downloading Office 2007 on Dec. 1. That is one day after the company plans to officially launch the updated productivity suite along with the Windows Vista operating system and the Exchange Server 2007 communications software in New York City.

Users in an additional 13 countries will be able to download the free 60-day trial versions “soon” after the beginning of December, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman, who declined to give further details. Those countries will include the U.K., Ireland, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Luxembourg, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands and Mexico.

Customers can activate their copy of Office 2007 within the first two months by paying online or at a retail store.

With Office 2003, Microsoft’s last prior release, only Americans and Canadians were allowed to download free trials of Office through the Internet.

As with Windows Vista, customers won’t be able to find Office 2007 on retail store shelves or pre-installed on PCs until early 2007, said the spokeswoman, missing what many consider the key Christmas season. Also like Windows Vista, Office 2007 will be available to corporate volume license customers via Web or CD-Rom starting Nov. 30.

Three and a half million people downloaded beta 2 of Office 2007, making it the largest Office beta program to date, said the company.

Office 2007 includes a revamped user interface, greater support for non-English languages, and more collaboration tools.

There will be eight different Office 2007 suites. The ones aimed at consumers and small business owners range from a Standard version that costs US$239 for an upgrade and $399 for a full retail version, to an Ultimate version that retails for $679 and costs $539 for an upgrade from any Microsoft Works or Office suite going back to 2000.

For corporate volume licensing customers, there are Professional Plus and Enterprise versions that include specialized collaboration and management tools of interest to big company users.

The next release of Office will also feature 50,000 new help articles, 35 new demos, 24 online training courses and 400 new templates.

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