News reached the world-wide-web last week that Microsoft Office 15 had reached the Technical Preview stage, and that a beta would be available this summer. That's all we know about the company's next generation integrated Office suite at the moment except that the company in a recent blog post said that "Office 15 is the most ambitious undertaking yet for the Office Division". What I wanted to do here was have a look at what this is certain to mean and some of the other things it really should mean if done properly.
It is a given at this point that full support for both Office 365, Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service and the next generation Windows Server 8 will be included. This will include new features that will be coming for Windows Server this year that we may not yet know about. It will also possibly mean that there is multi-platform support for things like Windows Phone, Windows 8 Metro and tablets. This is something Microsoft have always been very good at... or have they?
While it's easy to argue that services such as Office 365 are groundbreaking, and this is why it has been so incredibly popular since launching, and that the Office Web Apps and their integration with SkyDrive is extremely innovative and very welcome for a great many people, the web has sadly continued to move on and Microsoft Office simply hasn't moved with the times.
One example of this is the rumoured reluctance of the Office development team to create a version of the suite for Windows 8's new Metro interface. To a certain extent this rumour, if true, is understandable as Microsoft Office is an incredibly complex piece of software and also the price of tablet and expected price of Metro apps is but a small fraction of the overall cost of Office. However not only have web apps such as Google Docs and Office Live proven that the majority of people only need basic tools, but software such as Adobe's Photoshop Touch for Android tablets has proven hos easy and simple it can be to create truly immersive and powerful touch-friendly apps.
Despite my Microsoft 'lock-in' for most things I also use other operating systems and software. For the last six months I have been using an HP Touchpad tablet every day for light web browsing, email and work. This weekend I will be taking delivery of a Blackberry Playbook and I will evaluate it and decide which of the two will become my day-to-day sofa lounging computer. The problem with these devices, and also with the iPad, iPhone, Android tablets and Android Smartphones, Linux and to a limited extent also the iMac is the lack of iniquity in the world's most ubiquitous integrated Office and collaboration suite.
Microsoft may be currently in the process of releasing limited apps for these platforms such as their communications platform Lync and the note-taking app OneNote, but the vast majority of Office users, if not the vast majority of computer users, use Word, Excel and PowerPoint. These are the applications they need on their devices and I very much doubt you will ever find a regular Office user who will admit that working on and editing a document in the Office web apps, inside a browser is a friendly and accessible experience!
It's odd to look now at how, I was going to say fragmented but that's the wrong word, how broad the computer and operating system market is. When Microsoft started producing Office and when it became truly popular, taking over from software such as WordPerfect and Lotus 123 we had only the PC and the Mac. If you wanted to work on the move you had to synchronise your files with your PC and they could only be stored on your PC.
Now, more and more of us are storing our documents in the cloud, and you only have to look at the success of services such as Mozy, Google Docs and Office 365 to see that this is an unstoppable roller-coaster. This is something that Office 15 and Microsoft need to address, not just launching a new version of the suite for the PC, but simultaneously launching it for every other operating system available.
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.