At first blush, Microsoft Office 2010, due out in June, doesn't seem much different from its predecessor. But a focus on mobile computing and collaboration makes the software suite worth a second look.
The biggest change is the rollout of free Web-based versions of programs such as Word and Excel, a reaction to Google's popular Docs and Spreadsheets offerings. The stripped-down online programs, which were not available for review at presstime, will be accessible on computer browsers and Web-enabled mobile phones. Updated mobile apps also will be available for Windows Mobile phones.
The desktop programs have some handy new features, including basic photo- and video-editing capabilities in PowerPoint and data snapshots in Excel. A more notable improvement is the ability to share files by uploading them to Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration system and SkyDrive cloud service. You can also format documents and publish them in an e-mail or on a blog.
The Professional edition of the suite, which includes the Access database program, is $499 for two computers. There is a discount for high-volume purchases, but not for upgrades from a prior version.