As we've pointed out before, Microsoft isn't just refreshing its PC and phone operating systems this year. It also has a new version of Office up its sleeve. Late yesterday, the company updated the Office News blog to say Office 2013 is officially complete. The new version of the productivity suite has reached "release to manufacturing" status, meaning the final build that will show up on software DVDs (and as a download on the Microsoft Store) is now ready.
Microsoft hasn't set a date for Office 2013's retail rollout yet, but it says "general availability" is scheduled for the first quarter of next year. Some folks are going to get an early taste, though. ARM-powered Windows RT devices will ship with a preview build of Office Home & Student RT when they come out on October 26, and Microsoft's Volume Licensing customers are going to get access to the RTM build of Office 2013 "by mid-November." TechNet and MSDN subscribers will get access by mid-November, as well.
If you need a copy of Office now and don't want to buy the old version, don't worry. Microsoft has set up an upgrade program that will kick off on October 19. Folks who buy Office 2010 from "local retailers or resellers" after that date will get a free upgrade to Office 2013 once it's available. That program mirrors Microsoft's Windows 8 upgrade scheme, which has been running since June, except there appears to be no cost involved here. (Windows 8 upgrades cost $14.99 for PCs purchased after June 2, but Microsoft clearly states Office 2013 upgrades will be made available "for free.")