Following last year’s unveiling of the cloud-centric Office 365, Microsoft has brought more cloud-based features into the new version of its most popular software suite. Guy Daniels reports.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer yesterday unveiled his company’s latest version of the popular Office suite of productivity software. Office 2013 is now available as a customer preview download, with a full Windows commercial release expected towards the end of the year. Speaking at the press launch, Ballmer said:
“We are taking bold steps at Microsoft. The new, modern Office will deliver unparalleled productivity and flexibility for both consumers and business customers. It is a cloud service and will fully light-up when paired with Windows 8.”
Although Office is optimised to help sell upgrades to the new Windows 8 desktop OS, the company says it will also work on its new Surface tablets as it has built-in touch and stylus support – called ‘touch everywhere’ and ‘inking’. There’s no new Mac version of course, as Microsoft liked to be fashionably late with its Mac support. However, this latest version of Office might just be the one that finally gives iPad users the chance to use their favourite productivity software – or not, as Microsoft tends to be somewhat unpredictable – but it certainly won’t be before Surface owners get to use it first.
Following Adobe’s early success with its design software, Office will be delivered as an optional SaaS subscription offering via the cloud, ensuring that customers are always kept up to date with the latest additions and security fixes.
Being cloud based also means that you can use Office on different devices, accessing your personalised settings and picking up work on a new device exactly where you left off on the previous one. Office integrates with Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud storage service, saving documents to SkyDrive by default.
Multiple family installs of Office are also support via the cloud service. And if you’re using a shared device without Office, you can still connect and stream apps to access your work, so long as the computer has Windows 7 or later installed. The new Office also comes with Skype built in. When you subscribe via the SaaS option, you get 60 minutes of Skype world minutes every month. Microsoft corporate VP Kirk Koenigsbauer added that the company is: “transitioning the Office business as a cloud business”.
Following Microsoft’s $1.2bn purchase of social enterprise networking company Yammer in June this year, it wasted no time in integrating its features into Office. Yammer delivers a secure, private social network for businesses, and offers integration with SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics. Expect Yammer to be the corner stone of Microsoft’s social networking activities going forward.
Another interesting new social service is ‘People Card’, which gives users an integrated view of their contacts – including presence information and activity feeds from Facebook and LinkedIn accounts – throughout the Office suite.
Ballmer discussed three new Office 365 subscription services at yesterday’s press conference (although there will be more versions, including regular boxed ones, which will be unveiled later this year). Each new subscription SaaS offer will include Office 2013 – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access – and subscribers will get future rights to version upgrades as well as per-use rights across up to five PCs or Macs and mobile devices.
There will be a Home Premium edition of Office 365 for families and consumers, which offers access across five PCs, Macs (slight of hand here, the tiny small print informs us that the old ‘Office for Mac 2011’ is included for Mac users…) or mobile devices, and includes an additional 20GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 minutes of Skype world minutes per month. The Small Business Premium edition also includes business-grade email, shared calendars, website tools and HD web-conferencing. Finally, the Office 365 ProPlus version is designed for enterprise customers who want advanced business capabilities and the flexibility to deploy and manage in the cloud.
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