Microsoft unveiled Office 2013 yesterday and showed a demo of the suite running on Windows 8 – and on a Samsung tablet, a Windows Phone and a desktop computer. Steve Ballmer is calling this the biggest release from Microsoft since Office 95 and we agree it has all the makings to be just that and more.
I think there are three really big things happening here. First, Office 2013/Windows 8, together with SkyDrive, allows seamless interaction through any combination of devices that iWorkers use today – desktop/laptop, smartphone and tablet. Second, the Office suite on Windows 8 allows iWorkers to select their preferred application user interface – tiles or ribbon, which may vary depending on the device they are using at the moment. Third, there are plenty of rich new features throughout that vastly improve productivity.
Microsoft gets the corporate work world of business users with their need for tried-and-true business applications, and Microsoft also gets the corporate IT world with its legitimate concerns about corporate security. A majority of businesses use Microsoft applications throughout their enterprises, and for them the entry of iPads and other consumer devices into their organizations has presented a list of challenges – from security to managing increasingly heterogeneous mobile and application environments to policing the myriad of apps readily available to their workforces. But this consumerization trend has brought home the concept of the new world of work in which the professional and personal lives of employees overlap in new and different ways – and in which technology can be an obstacle or an enabler. Microsoft has responded by taking the best of its business applications and adding a range of new consumer-oriented features coupled with access through the cloud, but keeping core business customer requirements always top of mind when it comes to the enterprise version of its products. The next few years will surely be exciting to watch as Microsoft’s new products come to market.