Microsoft this morning launched a technical preview of the next generation of its Office programs — releasing the products to a selected group of customers who will test them privately and provide feedback to the company under the terms of non-disclosure agreements.

The company announced the milestone this morning and promised a public beta during the summer, but absent any leaks from the technical preview, it’s looking like details on the next versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other Office programs will be scarce until then.

“At this early point in our development cycle, I’m not able to share too much about Office 15, but I can tell you Office 15 is the most ambitious undertaking yet for the Office Division,” writes PJ Hough, the corporate vice president of development in the Microsoft Office Division. “With Office 15, for the first time ever, we will simultaneously update our cloud services, servers, and mobile and PC clients for Office, Office 365, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project, and Visio. Quite simply, Office 15 will help people work, collaborate, and communicate smarter and faster than ever before.”

Even with the secrecy, the broad directions aren’t tough to predict. More mobile and cloud-based features are pretty much a given, and it would be a surprise if Office didn’t take on elements of the Metro design style that Microsoft is already using in Windows Phone and Xbox and bringing to Windows 8.

Metro-style apps in Windows 8 will use web technologies HTML5 and Javascript. At Microsoft’s annual meeting with financial analysts last fall, CEO Steve Ballmer was asked about the possibility of Office being adapted into a Metro app. Ballmer responded that “certainly you ought to expect that we are rethinking and working hard on what it would mean to do Office Metro style.”

The company is using “Office 15” in quotes, signaling that it’s the code name and won’t necessarily be the designation for the shipping product.

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  • Guest

    Congratulations to Microsoft! I’m glad to see that despite Microsoft Office having essentially no serious competition, Microsoft is still innovating and expanding the suite’s capabilities.

  • Guest

    Yawn. Everything is now their “most ambitious undertaking yet”. Windows 8. Office 15. Meanwhile Apple just keeps saying nothing in advance and then releasing products that go on to break records MS can only dream of.

    • Guest

      Which software products do you speak of?

      • Guest

        I named them. Oh, you mean for Apple? Wake up, they figured out that standalone, mostly PC-based, software-only offerings is a 1990’s business model. Now it’s about integrated h/w and OS. iPhone, iPad, MBA. Ringing any bells? Take a look at the recent results for Apple vs MS if you’re confused. Actually, look at results over the last decade for that matter.

        • Guest

          Which software products has Apple invented? iPhone, iPad, and MBA are hardware products. Think about iWorks, Final Cut Pro, Aperture, and other Apple software products. How successful have they been?

          This is an article on software, Gary. Why are you discussing hardware?

          • Guest

            “iPhone, iPad, and MBA are hardware products.”

            That kind of thinking by MS and its stooges is why Apple will keep winning,

          • Guest

            Thank you, Gary.

  • littlethingsmatter

    Great. The cloud for office. Catchup to Google Docs.
    What about new features that improve end-user productivity and pleasure and reduce pain? Get rid of the ribbon in our vertically-challenged screens? Provide easier layer capabilities (so I can easily create overlay transparencies… just like in the old days) and better structured flow for and links to support slides in PowerPoint, so they don’t end up in a useless pile at the end of a presentation? How about better and easier numbering and bulleting in Word without document corruption? What about different column widths on the same spreadsheet so formatting changes don’t require a separate page in Excel? Outlook… well… where to begin with Outlook?
    Get with the program, Microsoft Office. People LOVE Apple because their products are **fun** to use. Where’s the fun in Office?

  • Sourav Dey

    MS Office, the cashcow for Microsoft because it’s the best. I regularly use MS Office 2010 and it’s just awesome.

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