The Office engineering team marked the "release to manufacturing" of the new Office on Thursday afternoon, Microsoft said in a .
"This milestone means the coding and testing phase of the project is complete and we are now focused on releasing the new Office via multiple distribution channels to our consumer and business customers," Microsoft said.
It's a that includes a traditional desktop version, called Office 2013, and a cloud-based version called Office 365. It's also an important update that Microsoft hopes will help it stave off online rivals like Google Docs.
General availability is planned for the first quarter next year, which is when most consumers will be able to buy the new suite.
Businesses get earlier access under the following arrangements, Microsoft said: