July 16, 2012 — -- Microsoft's been all about trading in tradition for change with Windows 8, and the next version of Microsoft Office is following suit.
Today, Microsoft previewed the next version of its Office, which includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, and is releasing a customer preview for users to try out.
"This is the most ambitious release of Microsoft Office we have ever done," Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, said at an event in San Francisco today.
The new programs in Office 2013 have been built with the ribbon interface, which was core to Office 2010. The ribbon on the top of the programs contains visual indications and graphics of tools.
However, everything has been optimized for touch because Windows 8 was primarily designed for tablets -- though it will work on all types of computers, including laptops and desktops. The new versions of the Office applications allow you to swipe across documents in Word and presentations in PowerPoint. You can pinch and zoom around the documents.
Ballmer detailed a number of the new features, including the ability to instant message in Outlook and a new presenter view in PowerPoint that lets you see your notes during a presentation without revealing them on the big screen.
Beyond the new interface, the new Office suite includes some new applications, including two of Microsoft's major acquisitions. The company is integrating both Skype and Yammer directly into the new suite. Skype, which is an Internet calling service, will come with Office. And, if you sign up, for Skype using the PC, you will get 60 minutes of Skype world minutes every month.
Yammer, which Microsoft purchased last month for $1.2 billion, is also going to be integrated. The service is a private social network for businesses.
Speaking of social networks, the entire Office suite has been given a social makeover. Each of the Office applications has a "people card," which lets you see information about your contacts and brings in activity feeds from their Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.
But perhaps the biggest change to Office comes with its cloud capabilities. With SkyDrive, Microsoft's online storage system, users can grab their documents from anywhere. Additionally, with new roaming capabilities when you are logged into Office, your settings, including your recent files or templates, will be synced across all your devices, including laptops, tablets and even Windows Phone smartphones.
Microsoft will offer new editions of Office 365, its cloud-based versions of the software, which provide an interface that runs in a browser. Office 365 Home Premium will include an extra 20 GB of SkyDrive storage and an Office 365 version for small businesses will include shared calendars, business-grade email, and HD web conferencing. Pricing for Office 365 hasn't been announced yet.
Microsoft's Office 2013 will be included with Windows RT, the version of Windows for tablets that are powered by ARM processors. ARM processors are lower-powered than Intel's processors; older versions of Windows programs will not run on ARM tablets. Microsoft is not announcing pricing of Office 2013 for Intel computers today.
A customer preview version of the new version of Office will be available starting today for users to try out. Microsoft hasn't announced when the final version of Office 2013 will be available, but Windows 8 is expected to come out by October of this year. Office 2013 is likely to be available around the same time.