Microsoft's franchise app suite has been redesigned "from the get go" to
support touch and collaboration, says CEO Steve Ballmer.
8 New Windows 8 Tablets
(click image for slideshow)
Microsoft on Monday introduced a new version of Microsoft Office that's designed to run on Windows 8-powered touch-screen tablets as well as on traditional PCs and laptops.
Speaking at a launch event in San Francisco, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called the new Office, generally referred to as Office 15, as "the most ambitious release of Microsoft Office that we've ever done."
The new Office differs from previous versions not just in the fact that it's optimized for touch, but also in that it's designed to work in concert with a vast array of cloud services that Microsoft has assembled in recent months, as well as with technologies, such as Yammer and Skype, that Redmond has gained through acquisition.
"It's the first round of Office that's been designed from the get go for Office to be a service," said Ballmer.
In appearance, the software relies heavily on the Metro interface, a set of design elements that Microsoft is incorporating across its product line and has already embedded into its Windows Phone and Windows 8 operating systems.
Individual Office apps such as Word, Excel, and OneNote have been redesigned to be more touch-friendly--a nod by Microsoft to the fact that an increasing number of consumers now access files and digital content on tablets. Microsoft is producing versions of Office 15 that will run on both ARM-based tablets, as well as on tablets and PCs powered by x86 chips from Intel and AMD.
In addition to touch, Office 15 has been updated to include enhanced support for stylus input, so that users can write notes directly into an app such as OneNote. OneNote also now sports a new radial menu so it's easier for users to access features with the touch of a fingertip.
Office now includes automatic integration with Microsoft's SkyDrive online storage service, allowing users to easily back up data and files to the service while they work. Settings and work also will be saved in the cloud so users can access their personal instance of Office regardless of which device they are using. "It's cloud first," said Ballmer.
The new Office appears strong on features that support enterprise communication and collaboration. Yammer, which Microsoft acquired last month for $1.2 billion, will see its business networking features integrated with SharePoint and Dynamics CRM. PowerPoint gets a new Presenter View that privately shows users their current and upcoming slides, and Lync now can handle multiparty HD video sessions.
"We've made social a first-class part," said Ballmer.
All in all, the new Office contains hundreds of new features, according to Microsoft, which did not announce pricing or a release date, although the software should be available in time for the October launch of Windows 8 systems. The Customer Preview can be downloaded for free from the company's Web site.
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