Redmond, Washington -- In a novel display of innovation, world's biggest software maker Microsoft Corp. has been radically following the tradition for change with Windows 8, and the next version of Microsoft Office, unveiled on Monday, is a dramatic departure from the software that millions of users have come to know, revamped to stay popular with people using tablets or smartphones to access programs in the Internet “cloud,” and packed with features that make it more social and, Microsoft hopes, more intuitive to use than past releases.
The refurbished Office, touted by Microsoft as the most impressive version so far, which takes advantage of cloud computing and is designed for use with the upcoming Windows 8 operating system.
Chief executive Steve Ballmer pulled back the curtain on its upcoming Office 2013 here at a press event in San Francisco, which includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, giving us a glimpse about the essential recalibration of how the company plans to do business going forward, starting with its flagship productivity application suite, and is also releasing a customer preview for users to try out.
“This is the most enterprising release of Microsoft Office we have ever done,” Ballmer, remarked at an event in San Francisco. “Your modern office thinks cloud first. You can just click and start running Office immediately,” Ballmer added.
The new applications in Office 2013 have been devised with the ribbon interface, which was core to Office 2010. The ribbon on the top of the programs contains visual indications and graphics of tools.
The software giant will still sell Office in a box, but Redmond wants you to know that its heart and soul is now floating in the cloud. The new software was available online at office.com/preview.
Admittedly, the Office suite is considered Microsoft's flagship offering and has long influenced the world of computer “productivity” tools for workers.
Essentially, with the emergence of modern gadgets like smartphones and tablet computers that have been invading workplaces with employees instead of companies dictating device choices and growing accustomed to using applications and data in “the cloud.”
This latest version of Office comes as tech industry rivals Apple Inc and Google Inc are making inroads into the workplace, long Microsoft's stronghold. Office is Microsoft's single-biggest profit driver. Microsoft built its fortune on packaged software for personal computer users but has been evolving hybrid cloud service offerings to avoid becoming obsolete.
Apart from demoing the new interface, the new Office suite includes some new applications, including two of Microsoft's major acquisitions. The company is integrating both Skype and Yammer directly into the new suite. Skype, which is an Internet calling service, will come with Office. And, if you sign up, for Skype using the PC, you will get 60 minutes of Skype world minutes every month.
Microsoft Office 2013 was redesigned for Windows 8 and tablets. Image Credit: (ABCNews)
“What is surprising is how they have tied all the things together,” IDC analyst Al Hilwa said of Microsoft adapting to the “post-PC era” heralded by the smash success of iPads.
“The smartphone, the cloud, and everything are obviously coming together for them,” he continued at the San Francisco event.
“The Office that we all talk about and show you today is the first round of Office that is designed from the get-go to be a service,” Ballmer said at a news conference.
Like the Windows 8 operating system, the new version of Office is crafted to work smoothly and intuitively with touch-screen controls that have been hits on tablets and smartphones. In addition to delivering some nifty features, Microsoft also played up professional capabilities such as management controls and security that have proven winning features for companies.
“The industry continues to move and change and advance dramatically,” Ballmer said.
The new Office comes as Microsoft prepares a Surface tablet computer to take on the iPad and seeks to expand in the smartphone market with version of Windows 8 tailored for mobile gadgets.
“Office is a service first,” Ballmer said. “Office is transforming because of the new systems and operating systems and hardware it can support.”
Speaking of social media hub, the entire Office suite has been bundled with social makeover. Each of the Office applications has a “people card,” which lets you see information about your contacts and brings in activity feeds from their Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.
Finally, Microsoft corporate vice president Kirk Koenigsbauer gave demonstration on a tablet computer displaying various Office features that let people collaborate on projects and share data online in a challenge to the Google Docs software suite.
“Office is designed to be your modern office,” Ballmer said. “It incorporates the best of Windows 8, cloud, social, and new scenarios.”
“Google Docs and Microsoft Office have been in a race for some time,” Hilwa said.
Preview The New Microsoft Office Here. (Courtesy: CnetNews)