Microsoft on Monday unveiled its next iteration of Office, dubbed Office 2013. The commercial suite of applications, initially introduced in 1989 to become a $22 billion industry today, is jumping headfirst into the future as the "most ambitious release of Microsoft Office" the company has ever done — and you can check it out here.
As you'd imagine, the software will overflow with ties into Windows 8 —expected to hit in October of this year — including its simplistic appearance, cloud support and, of course, touch capabilities. It really aligns itself to work naturally on a device like the Surface — announced early June — while still being familiar and easy-to-use for the average consumer.
If you've ever used a tablet, using Office 2013's more touch-centric support will be a cinch: Swipe across documents in Word, and navigate a presentation in PowerPoint; you can also pinch and zoom, just as you would on any smartphone or tablet out today.
Office 2013 is also coming with stylus support, which makes it easier to take notes and quickly scribble out a thought or idea. "Handwrite email responses and convert them automatically to text," Microsoft said. That doesn't sound anymore convenient than touch-typing, but the option is there.
Microsoft is also introducing integration with Windows 8 applications. The company said OneNote and Lync, designed as "touch-first" for tablets, will be the first new Windows 8 style apps for Office.
Companies want their user's' content to live in the cloud, and Microsoft is no different. In Office 2013, the company is heavily tying in its SkyDrive service to let folks save documents so they're available anywhere — tablet, PC and phone. Microsoft also said documents will be available offline and sync when you reconnect.
In addition, there's a Roaming feature that, when signed into Office, saves your personalized settings — files, templates, custom dictionary, and even where you last left off — that "roams" with you across all of your devices.
Speaking of Microsoft connected services, the company is making Office 2013 more social. The company said it's taking a "broad view" to the social experience, and in the new Office, Yammer, "a secure, private social network for businesses," is enabled within the software. Skype is also coming to Office, along with a People Card, which essentially lets you set up a address book with information such as pictures, contact info, and activity feeds from Facebook and LinkedIn.
In the details
By integrating with the cloud, all the notes and documents you've worked on and saved are ready everywhere you go, across multiple devices. Heavy Word user? Read Mode is a feature that automatically adjusts for large and small screens, making the reading experience easy to digest and manage.
In PowerPoint, there's a Presenter View that "privately shows your current and upcoming slides, presentation time, and speaker notes in a single glance." And because the new Office has touch capabilities, you can easily mark up and navigate slides, which Microsoft demonstrated on a TV-sized screen — that's what that Perceptive Pixel acquisition was for.
Microsoft hasn't discussed a pricing plan, only to say an announcement is coming in the fall. The company did, however, talk about a cloud-based subscription service, dubbed Office 365, that essentially gives users access to the full suite on a membership-style basis. Currently there's Home Premium, which includes 20GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 minutes of Skype world minutes per month; a Small Business Premium service that includes business-grade email, shared calendars, website tools and HD Web conferencing; and ProPlus, which comes with advanced business capabilities for enterprise customers.
According to Engadget, Microsoft isn't ready to publicly preview the new Office for Mac, so we should see something in the near future.
Consumers are more mobile than they've ever been, and Microsoft clearly understands this fact with the announcement of Office 2013. Documents follow you wherever you go, a program's state "roams" with you, and there's a social aspect integrated, as highlighted with the inclusion of Skype.
The most interesting thing will be to see how consumers take to the myriad of touch capabilities in Office 2013, which was a focal point of Microsoft's presentation today. Touch devices historically aren't thought of as content creators, and it's unclear if Microsoft has designed its suite well enough to change that notion. Of course, you could always use the traditional mouse and keyboard. We'll see when Office 2013 hits early next year.
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