With 8.6 million pre-release versions already having been downloaded you couldn't quite call it a launch but Microsoft today had its formal coming-out event for Office 2010, celebrating the latest generation of its cash-cow productivity suite at the terrifyingly cool Soho Hotel in London's West End.

The outing was also the occasion for the official unveiling of the 2010 iterations of its fast-growing collaboration suite Sharepoint as well as diagramming tool Visio and programme management tool Project. 

With Google Docs/Apps winning sales at large organisations, Office may be under the most pressure in its long history. Microsoft's answer: more and deeper features and an attempt to cover multiple modes of working across the desktop, browser and phone. Key features include the extension of the Office 2007 ribbon UI - a radical change of face at the time - across programs; Outlook Social Connector for importing social network feeds; Web Apps online versions of tools free to volume licence owners; video and broadcast support in PowerPoint; free upgrades for Windows Mobile 6.5 phone users to Office Mobile 2010; and support for business intelligence directly from Office applications.

Google might be attractive to organisations mandated to save chunks of budget but Microsoft remains the most pervasive of software houses and the firm claimed that over 1000 partners are already developing for the new Office.

"People need to be productive across a range of scenarios," said Jacob Jaffe, business group lead in the Information Worker division at Microsoft."For rich clients, video handling in PowerPoint suits the way people communicate information, but with a browser-based client you don't have to worry about whether the other people have [the same] client software] on their PCs. Nobody else is delivering that consistency or full-fidelity experience."

Separately, without adding detail Jaffe said that the Duet project to integrate Office with SAP back-ends is not moribund. "It's very much still alive," he said. "Stay tuned."