Office 2011 for Mac goes on sale; Windows 7 Service Pack 1 RC released

Microsoft will be releasing its Q1 2011 earnings on October 28 this week. And on the 28th and 29th, the company will be holding its first Redmond-based Professional Developers Conference. But there have been lots of other Microsoft-related happenings over the past few days (and it’s only Tuesday).

Office 2011 for Mac goes on sale: On October 26, Microsoft began selling Office 2011, the new Office release for Mac OS X users at retail. Microsoft released to manufacturing Office 2011 on September 10. There are three SKUs, or versions: Office for Mac Home & Student 2011, Office for Mac Home & Business 2011 and Office for Mac Academic 2011. Pricing ranges from $99 to $279, depending on the SKU and number of installs allowed.

Mac Office 2011 replaces Entourage with Outlook and adds back Visual Basic for Applications support to the product. Mac Office 2011 gets a Ribbonized user interface, similar to the one built into the recent Windows versions of Office, and will be a 32-bit product only. The suite includes in-client integration with Office Web Apps, the Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Microsoft officials also say the new suite will be faster to launch, scroll and perform calculations than previous versions of Office for Mac.

The near-final Release Candidate of Windows 7 Service Pack (SP) 1 is out
: Microsoft has released the official version of the Windows 7/Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 RC to testers on October 26. Microsoft officials are still saying to expect the final version of SP1 — which includes primarily a rollup of fixes, security updates (and, on the server side, a couple of new virtualization features – is next year, specifically in Q1 2011. (An unofficial leaked build of the SP1 RC slipped out over the past couple of days.)

Microsoft offers MSDN subscribers new Windows Azure offer: Microsoft execs hinted late last week that there’s some kind of Windows Azure pricing news coming at PDC 2010 this week (to compete better against Amazon’s just-announced free-tier offer). On October 26, Microsoft shared a few Azure subscription tidbits. The eight-month introductory Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) benefits for Azure have been extended to 16 months. And there are other new MSDN Azure benefits that will kick off in November, according to a new chart on the Microsoft Web site:

New Zune Pass pricing deal: Microsoft is offering subscribers to its Zune Pass all-you-can-eat music service a new pricing option. Currently, Microsoft offers subscribers a $14.99 per month rate that allows them to access and stream music and keep ten tracks per month. For those willing to commit to Zune Pass for a year, Microsoft is now allowing them to get Zune Pass access (including the ten tracks per month to keep) for $149.90, which is like getting 12 months of Zune Pass for the price of ten months. I’ve heard rumors that Microsoft also might be adding an even cheaper monthly Zune Pass option for individuals not interested in keeping the ten tracks per month, but when I asked was told “we have nothing else to announce at this time” regarding Zune Pass.

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