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2008: Decision Year for RIAs - October 20-22, 2008 San Jose


Microsoft Trots Out Cloud-ified Office for Windows 8
The new Office is supposed to be Microsoft’s most ambitious release yet, according to CEO Steve Ballmer

Microsoft wheeled out a customer preview of its new Johnny-come-lately, touch-sensitive, cloud-oriented, browser-based version of Office at a last-minute press conference in San Francisco Monday.

The stuff is meant for Windows 8, which is supposed to come out at the end of October. Microsoft was hazy about whether this new version of Office 365 will come out at the same time though it stands to reason that's the idea. It's supposed to work on x86-based Windows 8 PCs, tablets and phones as well as newfangled ARM-based Windows NT devices, specifically Microsoft's own Nvidia ARM-based Surface gismos. It'll be bundled on ARM devices. It's supposed to be a full-blown Office.

Despite all the pixels spent on rumors that Microsoft would make Office available to rival Apple and Android gadgets apparently it won't. Whether that proves to be a good idea or not remains to be seen. Microsoft is defending its biggest money-maker, bigger even than Windows itself, and trying to hold on to its dominant position against upstarts like Google Apps, which has been rustling some of Microsoft's enterprise accounts.

Market analysts like Gartner, however, say Microsoft has to put Office on the iPad. But Microsoft is apparently determined to give Windows 8-based gear first crack at the prized app said to be used by more than a billion people worldwide. Guess Microsoft can always change its mind.

The new Office is supposed to be Microsoft's most ambitious release yet, according to CEO Steve Ballmer, designed from the ground up as a service that automatically updated. It will store documents, custom dictionaries and settings in Microsoft's cloud-ified SkyDrive by default, following the user around from device to device to a total of five devices, and integrate with Skype, the VoIP service Microsoft bought for $6.5 billion last year so users can collaborate on a document via a video-conference.

SkyDrive is already supposed to have 60 million users and it's the first time Skype has been integrated with Outlook.

Microsoft means to give users an old-fashioned PC-installable version of Office 15 early next year. What it's pushing now is the webby subscription-based widgetry that "thinks cloud-first." although it has yet to say what it will cost. Subscription users will get a spare 20GB of storage on top of SkyDrive's free 7GB.

Users will be able to take notes or mark up documents using a stylus, a feature called Ink.

The widgetry is also supposed to be social, which may explain why Microsoft is spending $1.2 billion on Yammer, an acquisition that closed Thursday morning. A so-called People Card will let users see their contacts anywhere in Office, an aggregation of their social feeds and phone numbers. It's also integrated with Microsoft's Maps that can be showed in the middle of a message.

It has all the usual pinches, zooms and swipes and will flow test to fit the appropriate screen size. Rotary controls will select fonts.

Third parties will be able to integrate with Office. The apps in Offices have their own features. PowerPoint, for instance, includes a Presenter View that privately shows your current and upcoming slides, presentation time, and speaker notes in a single glance. Lync includes multiparty HD video with presentations, shared OneNote notebooks and a virtual whiteboard for collaborative brainstorming.

The widgetry can be downloaded at office.com/preview.

There will be three new Office 365 subscription services.

  • 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 e-mail, shared calendars, web site 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.
About Maureen O'Gara
Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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