Today Microsoft showed off its new touch-friendly version of Office at a San Francisco press conference. The new Office, informally known as Office 2013, will be compatible with PCs, tablets and smartphones, and will synchronise a user’s work across all three devices via Microsoft’s cloud services.
In naming the latest version of Microsoft Office, it appears Microsoft has taken a page out of Apple’s book by simply referring to the new Office suite, in conjunction with its Office 365 cloud subscription service, as the “new Office”; however, the software itself has been coined Office 2013.
The new Office will unify Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS, its SkyDrive cloud service and its new Surface tablet. Microsoft envisions customers who purchase their Surface tablet will sign up for an Office service that would allow cloud access to applications, automatic upgrades and additional cloud storage.
The popular voice over IP service, Skype, has a presence in Office as users will be able to call ordinary phones directly from Office apps. Microsoft acquired Skype for $8.5 billion and aims to incorporate the software in its smartphones, tablets, PCs and Xbox consoles.
Much like Google Docs, work performed in Microsoft’s Office is automatically saved to the cloud. Not only does this eradicate losing a document when your computer crashes, it will also grant users access to their documents on a variety of devices through Microsoft’s SkyDrive.
The new Office recognises collaborative efforts through a bookmarking feature, which marks where the person previously stopped working and commences editing there. Furthermore, the new Office better handles multimedia by embedding things such as a picture/video websearch into a word document.
In an effort to create a more open ecosystem, a lot of effort has been invested in the interoperation of different applications. According to a ComputerWorld report, Microsoft demoed OneNote interoperating with a Lync conference by creating a notebook for the meeting where the agenda, participants, and which documents they were using were all noted.
Those who purchase a new Windows computer will have access to the Consumer Preview version of Microsoft Office, which will feature Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, and Outlook, all benefitting from Skype integration.
Windows 8 for tablets will come in two versions, Windows 8 Pro (powered by Intel) and Windows RT (powered by ARM). At the event, Microsoft pledged even the less powerful Windows RT will feature full versions of Microsoft Office, instantly giving Windows tablets an advantage over rivals.
Although the announcement focussed largely on consumer versions of Office, Microsoft did announce two versions of Office 365 designed for businesses:
-Office 365 ProPlus: cloud-based management and other unspecified advanced capabilities
-Office 365 Small Business Premium: Business grade email, shared calendars, high-definition web conferencing
Unfortunately Microsoft didn’t reveal the availability nor pricing of the new Office, but it is likely its release will be scheduled to coincide with the debut of Windows 8, which is expected in October.