Microsoft today said it will ship the first service pack for Office 2013 sometime early next year.
Office 2013 Service Pack 1 (SP1) will launch alongside similar service packs for SharePoint and Exchange, the two most important server-side software products that tie in to the Office environment, said Chris Schneider, a marketing manager on the Office team, in a brief Wednesday blog.
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"Right. On. Time," said Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, in a tweet today.
Microsoft started selling Office 2013 at the end of January 2013. Assuming the Redmond, Wash., company sticks to the same 13-month timetable, it would release SP1 near the end of February 2014.
Traditionally, service packs -- whether for Windows, Office, or any other product in the Microsoft portfolio -- have been little more than collections of past security patches and other nonsecurity bug fixes.
But that's changed: Microsoft has done away with service packs for Windows, at least, and instead has moved to a faster development and release tempo. That's best exemplified by October's Windows 8.1, a major revision of the original Windows 8 that included numerous new features, revamped apps, user interface (UI) changes, and some backpedaling from design decisions that many customers couldn't swallow.
While Microsoft seems determined to retain service packs for Office, Miller expects that they will be quite different from past examples. "It will be 'Blue'-like," Miller said today in an interview, referring to the umbrella label some have stuck to Microsoft's faster release rhythm. "It will be the same sort of thing [as Windows 8.1], a bit of new features, a bit of updates."
Microsoft has made it clear that for Office, and server software such as Exchange and SharePoint, changes and new features are offered first to subscribers of Office 365 and the cloud-based a la carte services like Exchange Online. On-premises software, like Office 2013 when sold as a "perpetual" license -- paid for once, then used as long as the user wants -- presumably receive the same updates and features, although at a later date.
"You'll have to wait," said Miller of Office service packs compared to Office 365. "But [service packs] will be more frequent and more regular than in the past."
Microsoft has issued Office service packs for the last two editions -- Office 2007 and Office 2010 -- about every 17 months.