Microsoft unveils Office 2013 preview

Microsoft has unveiled Office 2013, the next generation of its suite of productivity applications. Codenamed Office 15, the software bundle was introduced at a press event in San Francisco, where Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Office corporate vice president Kirk Koenigsbauer showed off a revamped version of the familiar suite of programs.

Office 2013 is designed to appeal to both traditional desktop users, and also to customers using smartphones, tablets, laptops, and even enterprise-scale monitors - the combination of which represents “the modern office,” Ballmer said. Office has long been Microsoft’s most profitable product, but is seeing its hold on the market erode due to competition from the likes of Google Drive and Apple’s iWork.

That competition is likely why modernity seems to be weighing so heavily on the company’s consciousness - the key changes to the programs we already know so well (like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook, among others) is that they’re getting modern makeovers in the vein of Windows 8, making Office “fast, fluid, touchable.” The applications are optimised to work with Windows 8 and Windows RT, though only two (OneNote and Lync) are bona fide Metro-style apps.

Ballmer described Office 2013 as “the most ambitious release of Microsoft Office that we've ever done,” and that's pretty accurate. In addition to a design overhaul, which features bright colours and clean, sharp edges, Office 15 is bringing serious functional improvements to the table.

In the name of modernity, it addresses recent changes in the computing and technology landscape. Namely, Office 2013 has cloud and social integration at its core, taking advantage of Microsoft products like SkyDrive, Skype, and Yammer to add versatility and flexibility to its legacy applications.

“The way people work today is dramatically different from the way people worked when I joined Microsoft [in 1980],” Ballmer said, emphasising the shift to collaboration over isolation in the workplace.

Accordingly, Office 2013 features handy collaborative tools that give users different options for communicating, as well as creating, editing, and sharing their content. In-app communication mechanisms allow users to IM, email, voice call, or video call – through Skype, naturally – each other without having to toggle to another program.

Notably, Microsoft’s SkyDrive service gets peak integration, and enables automatic sharing across devices - that’s the default save setting, in fact. There are other cloud-based features from Office 365 that take advantage of SkyDrive, too.

The keynote featured almost as much boasting about SkyDrive as it did about Office 2013, confirming that, in Microsoft’s eyes, the cloud is key.

Microsoft has made a preview version available, though, as is the tech giant’s wont, no details about pricing or release dates have been revealed. There was also no word on whether Office 2013 will be available for Android, iOS, and Mac devices.

Stay tuned to ITProPortal, for more in-depth coverage of the Office 2013 announcement and a closer look at its features.