This afternoon, Microsoft unveiled the next generation of Office, showing off an updated interface, extensive cloud integration (the software itself will be a cloud-based subscription), and promising new features for Outlook and PowerPoint especially. Steve Ballmer called it, “The most ambitious release of Microsoft Office we have ever done.”
Also note that this release officially drops support for Windows XP and Vista. Just one more reason to upgrade to Windows 7 if you haven’t already.
Here’s a quick roundup from assorted tech news outlets and bloggers:
The best thing about Office is not what it does better than Office 2010, but how much more nimble it is in following you from device to device, from shut-down to start-up again. Beyond that, no one single feature of Office 2013 is dazzling, per se, but it doesn’t matter: everything here, from YouTube embeds to the chart generator in Excel, works as promised and is intuitive to use. At the same time, the interface doesn’t mark a radical departure from previous versions, so even casual users with no use for PivotTables should be able to find their way around.
Overall, Office 2013 represents a big leap forward on the cloud side, but if you’re an average Office 2010 home user then there might not be enough here to make you rush out and upgrade. On the other hand, the improved support for collaboration through Office 365 or Present Online and App extension support will be of particular interest to business and enterprise users. If you, like many office workers, live in Outlook then the 2013 upgrade might be worth it alone — especially if you want to sync Mail, Contacts, and Calendars from Hotmail or other services.
But perhaps the biggest trend that Microsoft wanted to build deeper into Office was cloud and Internet services. Hough said that Microsoft had already heavily invested in the cloud during in Office’s last generation—through services like Office 365 and SkyDrive. But in the new version of Office, cloud and Internet services (both Microsoft’s and those of its partners) are front and center. Perhaps the most obvious way that this has happened is in the evolution of how Microsoft plans to distribute Office 2013: as a subscription service, streamed from the cloud.