Microsoft unveils Office 2013 Customer Preview

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Microsoft today unveiled the Customer Preview of Microsoft Office 2013, the next generation of the company's productivity suite. Office 2013 is part of the Windows 8 strategy and, as such, sees the beginning of a transition to a Metro flavoured user experience with support for "touch everywhere" and the deep integration of cloud (SkyDrive, Office on Demand) and social (Skype, Yammer, People Card) functionality.

From the press release:

Today Microsoft unveiled the customer preview of the new Microsoft Office, available The next release features an intuitive design that works beautifully with touch, stylus, mouse or keyboard across new Windows devices, including tablets. The new Office is social and unlocks modern scenarios in reading, note-taking, meetings and communications and will be delivered to subscribers through a cloud service that is always up to date. 

Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer, noted:

"We are taking bold steps at Microsoft. 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."

The Metro design language and touch interaction, which originated with Zune and Windows Phone 7 and is a mainstay of the new visual look and make up of Windows 8, will make its first appearance in Office 2013. However, Microsoft is being careful to balance the new style with the traditional look and feel of Office, mindful of the large existing user base. Even so the new look of Office 2013, while familiar to existing users, is a departure from the previous version and is clearly inspired by the Metro design language.

  • Touch everywhere. Office responds to touch as naturally as it does to keyboard and mouse. Swipe your finger across the screen or pinch and zoom to read your documents and presentations. Author new content and access features with the touch of a finger.
  • New Windows 8 applications. OneNote and Lync represent the first new Windows 8 style applications for Office. These applications are designed to deliver touch-first experiences on a tablet. A new radial menu in OneNote makes it easy to access features with your finger.
  • Included in Windows RT. Office Home and Student 2013 RT, which contains new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote applications, will be included on ARM-based Windows 8 devices, including Microsoft Surface.

A big emphasis in Office 2013 is cloud integration, with a guiding principal of a seamless user experience - from desktop, to tablet, to phone - enabled by integration with SkyDrive and the introduction of Office on Demand, which provides a streaming version of the full Office application to any Internet connected Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer. 

  • SkyDrive. Office saves documents to SkyDrive by default, so your content is always available across your tablet, PC and phone. Your documents are also available offline and sync when you reconnect.
  • Roaming. Once signed in to Office, your personalized settings, including your most recently used files, templates and even your custom dictionary, roam with you across virtually all of your devices. Office even remembers where you last left off and brings you right back to that spot in a single click.
  • Office on Demand. With a subscription, you can access Office even when you are away from your PC by streaming full-featured applications to an Internet-connected Windows-based PC.

Microsoft Office 2013 will also see greater use of social features, driven by the integration of Microsoft's Skype and Yammer acquisitions:

  • Yammer. Yammer delivers a secure, private social network for businesses. You can sign up for free and begin using social networking instantly. Yammer offers integration with SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics
  • People Card. Have an integrated view of your contacts everywhere in Office. The People Card includes presence information complete with pictures, status updates, contact information and activity feeds from Facebook and LinkedIn accounts
  • Skype. The new Office comes with Skype. When you subscribe, you get 60 minutes of Skype world minutes every month. Integrate Skype contacts into Lync and call or instant message anyone on Skype.

With Office 2013 Microsoft is planning to expand its subscription based Office 365 offering, extending it to home users for the first time. The subscription option will include the new 2013 editions of the Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publish and Access) and will be able to use the product across upto five PCs, Macs of Mobile devices: 

  • Office 365 Home Premium — designed for families and consumers. This service also includes an additional 20 GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 minutes of Skype world minutes per month.
  • Office 365 Small Business Premium — designed for small businesses. This service also includes business-grade email, shared calendars, website tools and HD webconferencing.
  • Office 365 ProPlus — designed for enterprise customers who want advanced business capabilities and the flexibility to deploy and manage in the cloud.

More information is available on the Microsoft Office 2013 Customer Preview website.

Source / Credit: Microsoft