Northern, WI  1/29/2013  (BasicsMedia)  —   Microsoft is launching the new Office todayand there have been lots of rumors that there would be the day that the latest version of Office would be generally available via retail channels.  But thanks to a tweet from the Office team, and a #Timeto365 campaign/hashtag — which I saw via Winbeta.org — we now know Microsoft is “launching” the new Office on Tuesday in Bryant Park in New York City.

Microsoft released Office 2013 to manufacturing on October 11, 2012. The company made the final bits available to MSDN and TechNet subscribers, as well as volume-licensing customers, before the end of last year. Recently, Microsoft made $10 versions of the final Office 2013 bits available to volume licensees with Software Assurance as part of its Home Use .

Microsoft officials have been saying for a couple of months that Redmond planned to make the final bits commercially available in the first calendar quarter of 2013. 

The company already has taken the wraps off some of its Office 2013 SKUs. The company will be pushing a new, subscription-centric version of Office that it (confusingly) has named Office 365 Home Premium. I say confusingly because, unlike the other Office 365 SKUs, the Home Premium version isn’t a Microsoft-hosted version of Office. Instead, it’s downloadable, locally installable versions of the Office 2013 products for which users will be charged a monthly or annual “rental” fee. For that subscription fee, users will have the right to install Office 2013 and/or the Office for Mac 2011 SKUs on up to five PCs and Macs in total. (There’s still no new word on what’s going on with the follow-on version of Office for Mac 2011.)

Microsoft officials also have said that the “real” Office 365 update should be available around the time of the client launch. Microsoft officials have been prepping the company’s reseller/integrator partners for the Office 365 refresh for the past couple of weeks.

When I asked in December 2012 for the status of the rollout of the new Office, I was told a company spokesperson: “Any of the new Office 365 SKUs don’t become available for purchase until first quarter of 2013. ” That said, some Office 365 Enterprise customers have been able to get the latest bits as part of Microsoft’s regular service updates, starting in October 2012 and continuing through general availability, the spokesperson added.

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