SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft has lifted the veil of secrecy over the next version of its Office suite, showing off a new-look Windows 8-style user interface that includes touch capability.
The firm also revealed that the new Office 2013 product will be much more of a service-oriented offering relying chiefly on the cloud for document storage and roaming.
Detailing features of the new Office, Microsoft made available a customer preview version of the familiar set of desktop apps for trial and evaluation, which can be downloaded from the Office Customer Preview website.
Because of the new cloud focus, the new Office system is being previewed under the Office 365 banner, although the familiar desktop applications such as Word and Excel carry the Office 2013 label.
However, Microsoft has still to disclose a final ship date for the new Office, despite the fact that it is expected to be included on ARM-based devices running the Windows RT version of Windows 8.
Speaking at the launch of the preview, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said that the new version of Office will be "a service first and foremost". He however added that for the present at least, it will still consist of the familiar set of desktop applications that users can download and install.
"This is the first round of Office that is designed from the get-go to be a service. At the same time, we've transformed Office to embrace the same design concepts and principles of Windows 8 and Metro," Ballmer said, describing it as "the most ambitious release of office we've ever done".
The new release has been designed with Windows 8 in mind, but will run on other Windows platforms such as Windows 7 and the upcoming Windows Phone 8 platform, Microsoft said.
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