Office 2013 Preview Summarized in Three Words: Tablet, Windows 8, SharePoint
By Jim Lundy
Microsoft unveiled a preview of its latest versions of Microsoft Office 2013 and Office 365 at a Press Conference in San Francisco on Monday, July 16th, 2012. We just published an Aragon Research First Cut on it titled: Microsoft Revamps Office for the Cloud and Tablet Era. This Blog post is summarizes the event and what we saw from the Microsoft team.
The event itself, which was held on the fourth floor of the Metreon, was shrouded with secrecy. A few firms tweeted about it, but for the vast majority of the press (who were flown to San Francisco) and customers, they kept their word. Note that the Metron is on the same block as the Yerba Buena Center where Apple hold all of its events. More than a little irony.
Office 2013 Keynote: Steve Balmer
Steve Balmer kicked off the Press Conference and did a solid job of introducing the 15th version of Office. Most of the emphasis was on Office 365, but Steve acknowledged that they are happy to sell customers the regular disk based version of Office that is going to be called Office 2013. Steve was reserved and quietly confident about Office and he should be. Microsoft Office, next to Windows, is the cash cow for Microsoft.
Office 2013 – Best on Windows 8
Speaking of Windows, the announcement could have been about Windows 8, because it was mentioned in just about every other sentence uttered by Steve. The marketing tag line was ‘Best on Windows 8’. I would differ slightly from what Steve said and say that the Office team has always made Office a great experience on multiple platforms, since I’ve been using Office on a PC and a Mac for years. Pushing Windows, which still dominates the PC market space, is the norm for Microsoft. What is also the norm is not mentioning competitors. Neither Apple nor the iPad was mentioned a single time by Steve or any of the other Microsoft Executives. On top of that, no questions were taken during the Press Conference itself.
One thing that was clear from the event and the demos is that Office 365 is going to be a much better experience. It was crisp, more seamless and also friendly to the user if they were on a device that did not have Office installed (current version of Office 365 really is looking for Office on the desktop). This is great news for consumers and for enterprises. We were a little surprised to hear that there is a Home Premium version of Office 365, but we didn’t get a lot of details at the Press Conference.
If there was anything that was emphasized at the event, it was that Office 2013 is ready for the Tablet era. Nearly every demo was done on a Windows 8 Tablet with a touch interface. Office looked similar, but it had a fresh look with some nice enhancements, including the Radial Wheel for things like font selection.
One of the things Microsoft did was to provide loaner units to participants at the event that were pre-loaded with Windows 8 and Office 2013. Press and analysts had to sign a waiver that the unit was Microsoft property and that users were liable for damage to the device. What we found striking is that most of the press had trouble getting the unit to work and had to have assistance. This was partially due to the Samsung tablet having multiple buttons on the side and issues with the user ids that were issued.
Office 2013 and SharePoint: Social looks easy
Part of the afternoon session featured a deeper dive into the next version of SharePoint. Suffice to say, lots of new capabilities and a microblog and activity feed that looked kind of like Yammer. The demo made SharePoint look less like a content repository, which is its foundation and more like a Social Network. Sharing Office 2013 documents was easy and simple.
Some of the things to watch going forward are Skydrive Pro, which is integrated with SharePoint. Skydrive Pro gives users desktop sync of files and more. Microsoft really had to add this capability, since desktop sync is a new must have feature for Cloud Content Management (see our report: Cloud Content Management in a Tablet Era).
Another thing that was touched on only briefly is a SharePoint store for third party partner apps. Customers we talked with were excited about the possibilities of the SharePoint store, since it will be much easier to find the thousands of third party apps that run on top of SharePoint. It is important to note that in the enterprise, SharePoint is the largest Content Ecosystem around and adding an App store is a positive move.
Office 2013: No mention of iPad
As mentioned above, no mention was made about Office 2013 support for the iPad. In later events, the quote we have gotten from Microsoft is that they will support Office Applications on Apple iOS, Android and Windows Phones . So as we indicated in our First Cut, it looks like Microsoft will offer Office on the iPad. It isn’t as if they have a choice. We expect that there will be over 400 million tablets by the end of 2014, so supporting devices like the Apple iPad, as well as Android devices, makes financial sense for Microsoft.
All in all, Microsoft did a solid job at the event and with the introduction of Office 2013 and Office 365. The Microsoft Office team delivered once again and users and enterprises should be pleased with the new version, once it ships.
Editors Note: Read more about Cloud Office Suites in our Special Report: The rise of Cloud Content Management.