Microsoft sets pricing, October release for Office 2011

When it arrives on retail shelves later this year, the next version of Microsoft Office for the Mac will cost between 20 percent to 50 percent less than Office 2008, according to pricing announced by Microsoft Monday.

Microsoft Office 2011 will come in two editions—a Mac Home and Student version and a Mac Home and Business offering—when it ships at the end of October.

Microsoft Office for Mac Home and Student 2011 includes the Word word-processing, PowerPoint presentation, Excel spreadsheet, and Messenger IM applications. It will cost $119 for a single license and $149 for a family pack that allows for installs on three Macs.

Microsoft Office for Mac Home and Business 2011 includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Messenger, along with Outlook for the Mac. Outlook replaces Entourage as Office’s mail client and is one of the centerpiece changes of the 2011 edition of the productivity suite. The Home and Business edition will cost $199 for a single license and $279 for a multi-pack that allows two installs on two machines.

The prices for the 2011 editions of Office compare to $149 for the Home and Student Edition of Office 2008 and $399 for Office 2008 for Mac Business Edition. Microsoft says the new prices for the Mac version of Office create more consistent pricing across platforms.

In addition to the two versions of Office for the Mac, Microsoft will offer an academic edition for $99. Featuring Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, and Messenger, Microsoft Office for Mac Academic 2011 will be available only to higher-education students, staff, and faculty, Microsoft says.

While announcing the pricing for the 2011 version of Office, Microsoft also set an October release date for its productivity suite. Previously, the software giant had only said that the new version would be out before the 2010 holiday season.

Users who buy Office 2008 starting on Monday will be able to upgrade to the 2011 version for free. The offer runs through November 30, 2010, and users can register for the free upgrade at Microsoft’s Website. Microsoft didn’t provide any other upgrade pricing details for existing Office users.

When it ships, Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac will be available in more than 100 countries. Microsoft will add two new languages—Polish and Russian—to the 11 languages it already supports. Office 2011 will also be available in English as well as Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish, and Swedish.

Microsoft said the new version of Office will ship in several regions in October, with continued availability throughout the rest of 2010. The company will provide a list of country-specific availability in late October.

First announced in February, Office 2011 promises better compatibility across platforms, improved collaboration tools, and a modified interface. Besides the addition of Outlook, the new suite will include a more elaborate template gallery and a Ribbon feature that replaces the Elements Gallery and provides quick access to commonly used tools.

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