Report: Ballmer to unveil Office 2013 Monday

July 16 event will introduce update to money-making suite, says USA Today

Microsoft will introduce Office 2013, the likely official label for the next version of the company's money-making suite, on Monday, according to a report from USA Today.

CEO Steve Ballmer will host a news conference July 16, said the newspaper, when he will unveil what Microsoft has codenamed "Office 15." Most analysts -- and Microsoft itself, via a hint or two -- expect the usual year designation in the nameplate.

USA Today cited anonymous sources familiar with Microsoft's plans who said Office will be the focal point of the event.

Microsoft has been especially secretive about Office 2013, and has said virtually nothing about the suite other than to promise a public beta this summer and confirm that a version for Windows RT, the tablet-centric offshoot of Windows 8, will include four Office applications that have been heavily revamped for touch.

Last week, Computerworld ventured that Microsoft would announce the Office 2013 beta at its Worldwide Partners Conference (WPC), which ran July 9-12 in Toronto. Computerworld based the bet on the fact that Microsoft revealed Office 2010 at WPC three years ago.

That didn't happen.

Microsoft has not yet provided any information about Office 2013's price, on-sale date, upgrades, or the number of editions that will be sold. It's unlikely all those details will be divulged by Ballmer next week, even if he uses the occasion to announce a public beta. The company typically waits until much nearer to a final release date to discuss pricing, for example.

Guessing ship dates is a cottage industry among technology bloggers, reporters and analysts. In Office 2013's case, the consensus is that Microsoft will launch the suite early next year.

If Microsoft follows the same development tempo for Office 2013 as it did for Office 2010, it will launch the suite 28 weeks after it delivers a public beta. Assuming Ballmer declares beta availability on Monday, Office 2013 would reach retail during the week of January 28-February 1, 2013.

But that timeline is not unanimous. Popular ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley today said that sources told her at last week's WPC that Office 2013 won't hit retail until May 2013.

Office 2013 RT, the probable name for the Windows RT version, will have to reach customers long before that, however, if Windows RT debuts in late October alongside Windows 8.

Office 2013 RT will be included with Microsoft's own Surface tablet, which the company has said will go on sale around the same time as Windows 8 launches. Windows 8 is slated to appear in late October, Microsoft said earlier this week.

Microsoft first placed a preview of Office 2013 in the hands of a small group of testers in January.

It's unclear what versions of Windows will support Office 2013, although Window 8 is a lock and Windows 7 would appear to be. The 11-year-old Windows XP, however, might be excluded from the list since it's scheduled to be retired from all support in April 2014, just over a year after the likely launch of the suite.

Office is a crucial component of Microsoft's money-making. In the first quarter of 2012, for example, the Business Division, which includes Office, reported revenue of $5.81 billion, or 33% of the company's total for the period. Microsoft's Business Division recorded the largest percentage of total revenue of any unit, ahead of even the Windows and Windows Live Division, which generated $4.62 billion, or 26.5% of sales for the quarter.

Microsoft will report its second-quarter numbers in an earnings call with Wall Street analysts on July 19 from Atlanta, where it will host the Microsoft Global eXchange (MGX), the firm's annual internal mass meeting where the next fiscal year's goals and projects are highlighted.

MGX will start July 17, the day after Ballmer's expected Office 2013 announcement, and run through July 20.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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