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Summary:

As Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer showed off the company’s latest Office software Monday, he hit all the right marks — a touch interface, cloud storage, VoIP integration and social networking tie-ins. They had to. But a very different interface might spook current Office users.

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Updated: As Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and company showed off the latest version of Office Monday, they hit all the right marks — a touch interface, cloud storage, VoIP integration and social networking tie-ins.

The new Office (now in customer preview) will be both “ink-”  and “touch-” enabled.  It will store user documents to Microsoft’s SkyDrive by default. (Microsoft already said it was tying SkyDrive cloud storage closely into its upcoming Windows 8 operating system.) And the new Office Home and Student 2013 RT versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote will ship with Microsoft’s promised ARM-based Windows 8 machines including Surface.

A lot of what was detailed was integration of  the new Office with existing (and some more recently acquired) Microsoft products, including Skype for VoIP communication and Yammer for social networking.

Much of the new functionality looks like catch-up — Microsoft knows it needs to respond to the iPad fever that’s overtaken the world, hence the Windows 8 tablets and touch enablement. (If Ballmer et al. mentioned new Office for iPad or Mac today, I missed it, although Microsoft Office is a popular Mac product.) Update: A Microsoft spokeswoman said Mac Office was not discussed today but that Office Mobile will work across Windows Phones, Android phones and iOSand that Microsoft will discuss those plans later. As for ink, Microsoft has been pushing pen computing for a decade with no discernible traction. It’ll be interesting to see if it takes this time around.

This effort is unbelievably important to Microsoft. Office, even more than Windows itself, is what keeps many people coming back to Microsoft — their documents are created in Word and their presentations authored in PowerPoint.  But many startups and web companies are taking a good look at free or less pricey Google Apps.  If nothing else, that price pressure and the demand for cloud-friendly applications have driven this Microsoft move.

The gamble here is that the drastically different more touch-oriented user interface, which many laud as an improvement over the old Office UI, may confuse or alienate long-time Office users.

  1. Veterans to Work Monday, July 16, 2012

    Microsoft Office moving to the cloud will certainly allow better control over our licenses. The fact we can add and/or remove a remote user at the click of the mouse will have an immediate effect on our bottom line. The folks over at WorkSpace Communications who provide our help desk tell us that deployment of new users will be reduced by 60% along with substantial increase in resolving remote support issues. Microsoft Office has become so entrenched within our organization we could not move to any other application without causing a total collapse of our operations. I’m happy to see Microsoft moving more aggressively to the cloud and look forward to a long and now lower cost solution.

  2. Oh god another UI?

  3. I simply love this cloud technology, It just helps me break from my IT Hassles, its reliable, and its secure. Moreover, its helping organizations to save up to 40% (OPEX and CAPEX) by eliminating the cost of owning traditional PC/Server environments. Also, helps in Increasing energy efficiency by 80% through virtual servers and virtual desktops. Addition to this. cloud computing also eliminates the cost of purchasing, supporting, and upgrading equipment and software. Isn’t this so flexible that you pay only for the benefits and applications you need in a low, monthly rate – nothing more.

    Doubtlessly, Cloud is Here to Stay!

  4. Excellent article, Microsoft never gives up and will eventually offer some excellent choices for clients currently using iPads and cloud-centric computing.

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