Microsoft has released a pre-launch version of its Office 2013 suite for £8.95, but only to those organisations that have a Software Assurance (SA) plan.
While Microsoft has not yet announced the official release date for the next iteration of its Office suite, this is widely expected to be next month. In the meantime, however, those organisations with SA can use their program code to allow their employees to download the software from the Microsoft Home Use Program (HUP) site.
HUP is the firm's outlet for cheap software intended for use by employees of organisations with the SA licence. Microsoft generally makes preview versions of Office available on HUP just prior to the official release, with the software expiring sometime after it becomes commercially available - in this case 60 days.
According to Microsoft's HUP FAQ: "In order to place a HUP order, you must be an active employee of a company who has a valid Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft. You will need a valid work email address, the company Program Code and an accepted form of payment." Downloads are limited to one per employee.
Two versions are available for download (and as a backup DVD): Office Professional Plus 13 and Office:Mac Home & Business 2011. The former will be available to volume licensees only and includes stalwarts Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access and Publisher, plus OneNote (graphical note taking), Infopath (electronic forms tool) and the Lync UC platform. Office for Mac 2011 features new versions of World, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook for Apple's platform. An upgraded version of Office for Mac is expected in 2014.