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Office 2013 release date may come early, but does IT care?

Microsoft Office 2013 might be available earlier than expected, but organizations aren't exactly clamoring to buy the latest suite.

Microsoft Office 2013 could be out earlier than expected, but it remains to be seen whether IT pros care about the new version.

Microsoft released Office 2013 to manufacturing -- the final step before making the product generally available -- in mid-October, sooner than many observers had predicted. The early release to manufacturing has led some to wonder if the final Office 2013 release will come in January, a month or more ahead of schedule. For some IT pros, however, that may not be important.

"Most of my customers are just now completing the upgrade to Office 2010," said Paul DeGroot, principal consultant at Pica Communications LLC, a Windows licensing consultancy in Camano Island, Wash.

Don't expect those customers to partially deploy Office 2013, either. It's very important for all users in an organization to run the same version of Office, so they can easily exchange documents with each other, DeGroot said.

Microsoft Office 2013 release details

Microsoft has promised Office 2013 will hit general availability in the first quarter of next year, but declined to be more specific.

Enterprise IT customers can now download Office 2013 and its accompanying server-based applications via the company's Volume License Service Center. That includes the Exchange 2013 email server, Lync 2013 unified communications server, and SharePoint 2013 collaboration server.

Customers with Microsoft Developer Network or TechNet subscriptions can also now download the updated suite. Earlier this month, customers with Software Assurance contracts were able to begin downloading the code under volume licenses. Microsoft will make the products available to other customers via its volume licensing price list Dec. 1.

Apathy and excitement for the Office 2013 release

Some of the features in Office 2013, particularly its social networking capabilities, may not be in high demand in the enterprise, DeGroot said. A lot of companies discourage the use of social networking tools such as Facebook at work, or even ban them outright.

"How would you like your employees checking in about their friends and family all day long?" DeGroot asked.

Apathy towards Office 2013 is far from universal, however.

"You always see people waiting on the fence [on new products], but we're actually seeing a lot of interest about it," said Aamir Shah, senior cloud business manager at En Pointe Technologies, an IT services provider based in Los Angeles. "The IT folks want to work on stuff that really matters to the business, and Office 2013 is really now part of that."

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When will you upgrade to Office 2013?