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Microsoft announces Office 2013

Shrouded in secrecy just a week ago at its Worldwide Partner Conference, earlier this week Microsoft took the wraps off the next version of Office, Office 2013.

Steve Ballmer announcing Office 2013

Steve Ballmer announcing Office 2013


Before looking at what’s changed, it’s important to understand what Office means to Microsoft. According to the company's earnings statements, Microsoft's Business Division -- the group that handles Office, as well as products tied to the suite including Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and the online-centric Office 365 – has been the firm's biggest revenue generator since the fourth quarter of 2010. During the first quarter of 2012, for example, the Business division generated $5.8 billion, or 33.4% of Microsoft's total revenue of $17.4 billion.

And this group’s impact on Microsoft’s profitability is even more pronounced: Last quarter, the Business division produced $3.8 billion of the total $6.4 billion in operating income, or 59.1%. In other words, nearly 6 of every 10 dollars in pre-tax profit came from Office and its surrounding products. Remember: it’s the profit from Office and Windows that affords Microsoft the ability to invest in other areas of its business, which is critical to its on-going success in the marketplace and affords it the ability to invest in other areas of the business. In short, Office is very important to Microsoft.

Much will no doubt be written about Office over the coming weeks and months. From what I’ve seen reported, no firm, final date has been given for the suite’s release, although it’s a reasonably safe bet to assume that the final release of Office 2013 will find its way to market before the end of 2012.

Releases of Office are always closely scrutinised to see what’s new and what will drive upgrades – after all, the critics pose, what more do people want to do with Office that they can’t already do today? With Office comprising many applications – including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, OneNote, Publisher and Visio at the client end, and SharePoint, Exchange and Lync on the server – the updates are broad-ranging and, at first glance, deliver new features across the board, while retaining the important familiarity that’s critical to the (large) existing user base.

Without providing an exhaustive list, there are some key themes or aspects that stand out:

  • User interaction methods. The Office user interface (UI) has been given another facelift, in recognition of the UI standards set by Windows 8. The clean Metro-styled UI is present throughout the offerings, while at the same time, Office adapts to the different interaction methods now available. While Office 2013 has traditionally been a mouse-centric user experience, and while this won’t change for substantial documents, Office is also designed to seamlessly use touch and pen input methods as well, with the UI changing to suit the interaction method in use.
  • Cloud support. Microsoft is embracing the cloud even more with this release of Office, and makes heavy use of Microsoft’s range of cloud services, including SkyDrive and Skype and – once the transaction closes – look for Yammer to play a part in Office moving forward. The default location for saving documents is now SkyDrive in the cloud, and in addition to centrally storing documents, all settings and customisations users make to Office are also stored centrally, allowing your changes to the apps to follow you from computer to computer.
  • Social. People, teams, documents and sites can now be “followed” in SharePoint, and media can now be embedded in your activity feeds to stay current and update your colleagues. With Lync becoming increasingly adopted, and Yammer and the ever-present Skype now Microsoft properties, there are a myriad ways for staff to collaborate and share information across teams and organisations.
  • Subscription support. For consumers, Microsoft wants us to subscribe to the new version of Office. A subscription will provide access to Office on up to five devices, including Macs. Depending on what subscription you purchase, then the more features you get, including SharePoint Online and Exchange Online for business users.
  • Client and Server updates. All of the key client and server apps have received updates, requiring a reasonable amount of effort to understand what the implications are, and how the new features and approaches can benefit organisations.

It’s also important to note that Office 2013 will not work on those devices running Windows XP or Windows Vista; either Windows 7 or Windows 8 is required for the client applications to run. An updated version for the Mac has been alluded to, but no firm details have been released. Similarly, a version for the Apple iPad has been signalled for some time, but again, no details were forthcoming.

With the beta available now, anyone interested can download and install the client and server solutions to make their own analysis of what Office has to offer. To find out more about Office 2013 and the various products, visit www.office.com/preview.

Posted by: Tim Howell, Marketing Manager | 20 July 2012

Tags: Microsoft, Office 2013

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