Microsoft has unveiled its latest version of Office, which is bundled in with Office 365 – a subscription-based service that is integrated with the cloud.
According to variousreports, the new version has clearly been designed to work with Windows 8, featuring touch and stylus support as well as the panelled Metro design that is characteristic of the OS.
But perhaps more interesting for the channel is the move to a cloud-based model, even on Office Home and Student, which includes a number of services, such as cloud email, that can be accessed from any web capable device.
“We are taking bold steps at Microsoft,” said Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer at the press conference in San Francisco. “The new, modern Office will deliver unparalleled productivity and flexibility for both consumers and business customers. It is a cloud service and will fully light-up when paired with Windows 8.”
For the consumer channel, this shift to a subscription-based model is essentially a concession of the consumer market. Some consumers might be tempted by the cheaper service packages such as cloud email, but most are likely to opt for free online apps, like Google Docs and Microsoft’s own Docs.com.
Nonetheless, it has been noted that the new software offers greater flexibility on licencing, for example, some packages can be made available for up to five devices per user, reflecting the greater consumerisation of business IT environments, and company licences can be revoked from a device when its owner leaves the company. This is hand in hand with recent moves that allow Microsoft partners to invoice their own customers directly.
All in all, the new software is reflective of the strategy employed in designing the new Windows 8 operating system. Microsoft is clearly looking ahead to a future of connected devices and where software is as much a service as it is a commodity.
Meanwhile, for those interested, Microsoft has made a preview of the new software available, which can be obtained here.