Microsoft’s plans for Office 2013

After releasing the Office 2013 Consumer Preview, Simon Brew takes a look at where Microsoft plans on taking its business next.

Plans

Those improvements hint at the firm's plans for the future of Office. Working hand in hand with its plans for Windows 8, Microsoft is targeting its new Office suite towards the portable market. Granted, rumours that an iPad version of Office would be coming have proven unfounded for the time being - a November launch had been mooted, but nothing has materialised. Nonetheless, Microsoft is adapting its key tools to work on the movie and adapting the interfaces to cope with that.

Furthermore, Office 2013 sees Microsoft, more than ever, pushing a cloud-based way of working. Enterprise and corporate clients have been the mainstay of the Office business, and this is where the focus of the software remains. Cloud syncing is a default option now, and Microsoft will be looking to push the collaborative features this brings with it. It's a smart move, too. When Google first introduced its online office tools, there was a fear Microsoft was being beaten to the punch.

Microsoft is trying to put together a package of materials that its rivals can't easily match and that businesses actively need.

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However, Google's product line has never really caught on in the way some predicted, and Microsoft has worked hard to cement the trust of its large and loyal business base. The tone of Microsoft's formal Office 2013 announcement firmly reflects that. Furthermore, Microsoft has also revealed that it is beefing up its subscription service, Office 365. This is arguably the long-term future of the Office brand. Tying in Skype and SkyDrive storage, Microsoft is trying to put together a package of materials that its rivals can't easily match and that businesses actively need to some degree.

Office 2013

In terms of Office 2013 specifically, the risk, of course, is tying it too closely to Windows 8. While one doesn't intrinsically require the other, Microsoft is heavily gambling on the direction it is taking with Windows 8, and some of its changes to Office are very much in line with that. Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer has said as much himself.

"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," he boasted.

Evidence of the intention to intertwine the two product lines where possible is the confirmation that the firm is bringing out two specific Windows 8-style applications for Office, with its OneNote and Lync tools. Furthermore, Microsoft has announced versions of the software that work with the upcoming range of Windows RT-devices, such as the loudly-announced Microsoft Surface tablet computers.

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