You learn the most interesting things when you poke around in some of the arcane files that are included with Windows 7 beta releases. In the most recent build of Windows 7 that I’ve been able to examine, I’ve confirmed that Microsoft plans to release its next version of Office in 32-bit and 64-bit flavors. That’s a detail that my colleague Mary Jo Foley didn’t discover in her December 2008 rundown of what we know about Office 14
The clues to an upcoming x64 Office release are hidden in an obscure XML file used by the Windows Easy Transfer utility, which transfers settings for Windows and selected applications from an old PC to a new one. In the official beta release of Windows 7 (finalized in December 2008), Migwiz.xml includes the same list of applications found in Windows Vista. But in post-beta builds, this file has been updated to include more modern programs.
Earlier today, as I was scanning through the file to assemble an updated list of applications that can be migrated to Windows 7, this heading caught my eye:
Directly underneath this block of code is a list of programs to be detected. It’s the same list of nine programs found under the Office 2003 and Office 2007 headings, except that the Office 14 section includes an extra “_x64” entry for each one. Here, see for yourself:
In addition, there are separate sections labeled “Office x86 detects” and “Office x64 detects”. Elsewhere in the file are sections that cover different upgrade scenarios. For Office 2003, there are three rule sets:
Similarly, you can use the wizard to upgrade from Office 2007 to Office 14 or Office 14_x64.
The fact that this code is being baked into Windows 7 now suggests that the rumors of an early 2010 ship date for Office 14 are accurate. Having native 64-bit support for all members of the Office family is an extra bonus and welcome news.
by Ed Bott