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Microsoft revamps Office

2012-07-17 10:05

San Francisco - Microsoft on Monday unveiled next-generation Office software overhauled to stay popular with people using tablets or smartphones to access programs in the internet "cloud".

Chief executive Steve Ballmer pulled back the curtain on the new software at a press event in San Francisco.

The popular suite includes Word for documents, as well as programs for spreadsheets and other functions, and the latest version is adapted for devices with touch, stylus and mouse interfaces and links to the cloud to allow access to documents.

Office was designed "from the ground up" to work in harmony with the Windows 8 operating system to be released by Microsoft in October and work intuitively across the range of devices supported by Windows 8, Ballmer said.

"The industry continues to move and change and advance dramatically," Ballmer said.

Mobile gadgets

The new Office comes as Microsoft readies a Surface tablet computer to take on the iPad and seeks to expand in the smartphone market with version of Windows 8 tailored for mobile gadgets.

"Office is a service first," Ballmer. "Office is transforming because of the new systems and operating systems and hardware it can support."

Microsoft corporate vice president Kirk Koenigsbauer used a tablet computer to demonstrate Office features that let people collaborate on projects and share data online in a challenge to the Google Docs software suite.

Skype was integrated into Office to let people launch internet video calls instantly. The newest version will also link to the online version known as Office 365, which is a cloud-only subscription service.

"Office is designed to be your modern office," Ballmer said. "It incorporates the best of Windows 8, cloud, social, and new scenarios."

The new software is available online.

The Office suite is considered Microsoft's flagship offering and has long dominated the world of computer "productivity" tools for workers.

Workplace

However, smartphones and tablet computers have been invading workplaces with employees instead of companies dictating device choices and growing accustomed to using applications and data in "the cloud".

Microsoft built its fortune on packaged software for personal computer users but has been evolving hybrid cloud service offerings to avoid becoming obsolete.

"What is surprising is how they have tied all the things together," IDC analyst Al Hilwa said of Microsoft adapting to the "post-PC era" heralded by the success of iPads.

"The smartphone, the cloud, and everything are obviously coming together for them," he continued at the San Francisco event.

Like the Windows 8 operating system, the new version of Office is crafted to work smoothly and intuitively with touch screen controls that have been hits on tablets and smartphones.

Recent Microsoft acquisitions, including Skype and Yammer, have been integrated into Office to make it easier for people to communicate and collaborate.

While making Office programs more consumer-friendly, Microsoft also played up professional capabilities such as management controls and security that have proven winning features for companies.

"Microsoft has a really strong presence in the enterprise and that is for them to lose," Hilwa said.

"Preserving it will hinge on the level to which they can consumerise, because the enterprise is increasingly subservient to consumers."

Google Docs provides free or low cost programs for text, spreadsheets and other productivity needs as online services.

"Google Docs and Microsoft Office have been in a race for some time," Hilwa said.

Comments
  • Steynje - 2012-08-01 09:13

    From a developer's perspective, what do you want us to do? Bring you cutting-edge technology for free? Low price? Did you know that developing an application suite like Office doesn't take a day or two but years. Who's paying for those hours? How do you expect us developers to make a living if you go complaining about the price and the look and feel of the software packages you're using? If it's such an issue, why don't you go and sell your computer and go without it. For those complaining about newer versions arriving, do you want to use 1997 technology until the day you die? It's time for people to embrace the technology and IMPROVE your knowledge of it. For those complaining about Windows 7/8, you're definitely using the lower-end computing hardware because I don't have any problems. It's faster, more secure and more stable than XP. Funny, everyone complained about Windows XP, yet most are using it today. Microsoft is my inspiration. They are the people who help me reach my goals by providing me with cutting-edge technology to develop and deliver world-class business and personal applications be it Web or Desktop. They may be overpriced, but NO ONE is forcing you to upgrade. Didn't think of that did you. But it's easy to sit back and complain. Unfortunately, that's what people are good at. Complaining.

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