Well it looks like just as everyone was finishing their upgrades to Office 2010, a new one is just around the corner. You can check it out now from Microsoft.
I think the most interesting thing about this release is the changes in collaboration. It’s much more real-time and online (thanks to SkyDrive or SharePoint integration by default). By default is what’s interesting here. It’s certainly part of a bigger trend towards cloud-backed consumer-oriented services. What’s more interesting about Microsoft is they’re able to get close to pulling this off for the Enterprise too. There are lots of caveats around that, but that’s a topic for another day.
Where I think Office 2013 really has some potential is for Microsoft, not so much users. Coupled with Windows 8, which will support desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones with the same kernel (in layman’s terms: central part of the operating system), means the workflow possibilities across all your devices start to approach what Apple can do. But Microsoft has two things Apple don’t: Office and Exchange. Put simply, the integration should be (assuming internal politics at Microsoft doesn’t screw things up like they have in the past) more useful and almost as slick as Apple’s. The net result of all this will be:
- Apple – iOS & Mac OS (both based on Darwin), all their own hardware. If Cringely is to be believed, along with removing hardware customisation. As everyone knows, this end-to-end control coupled with an unparalleled design flair currently gives Apple the edge on usability and simplicity. Apple own “consumer”.
- Microsoft – Windows 8 everywhere; their own tablet. Microsoft need to leverage Office and Exchange across all their devices. If they do this well, Microsoft own “traditional enterprise”
- Google – the dark horse. Android everywhere; cloud everywhere else. Maybe some merging of Android and ChromeOS, or just slicking up the whole thing. Whether they can pull off the integration (they have the pieces, but not the glue) in time is a question. They’ve got Google Apps, but that’s not a realistic Office-replacement for most enterprises. That doesn’t stop some from trying (FairFax has announced a switch to Google Apps). It will also hook the startup/smaller business crowd due to its much lower costs (particularly in non-core areas. i.e. Microsoft can suck you in with consumer-grade stuff, but their enterprise stuff adds up pretty quickly. Google’s doesn’t)