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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

July 16, 2012 at 6:30 AM

Microsoft unveils its new version of Office

SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft announced its next version of Office at an event today in San Francisco. Here’s the live blog from the event — it’s in reverse chronological order:

1 p.m.: That’s a wrap on the press conference. Some highlights (or lack thereof):

* The overall branding of the new version of Office is simply “Office” or “the new Office,” according to a Microsoft spokeswoman. (Shades of “the new iPad”). The online version — Office 365 — will still be called “Office 365” and is very much being positioned as a service. The software licenses that individuals and businesses can buy will have the “2013” designation, as in: “Office Home and Student 2013,” “Word 2013,” “PowerPoint 2013.”

* There were no specifics on pricing either for Office 365 or the Office software licenses.

* No release date was announced.

* Touch UI was emphasized a lot. As was cloud — connecting across different devices via SkyDrive. And “inking” — using a stylus to annotate, take notes, handwrite.

* There will be new Windows 8-style apps for Office with OneNote and Lync being the first.

* Skype will be directly integrated into Office.

* Nothing about Office for iPad/iOS or Android.

* There are three new editions of Office 365: Home Premium, Small Business Premium and ProPlus for enterprise customers.

12:47: Ballmer back on stage.

BallmerOffice.JPG

He talks about the big thematic changes for Office: Windows 8: touch UI; inking — not just handwriting recognition but “ink becomes a first class citizen” in this generation of device, replacing the markup that people do with pens and pencils to digital; apps native to new Windows experience — e.g. OneNote in the new mode; support on ARM – “full Word, full PowerPoint, full Excel” — “you give up nothing of the full Office capability” when you embrace Windows on ARM. OneNote/Lync new capabilities.

Also themes of new Office: Cloud (SyDrive, roaming, subscription); social (Yammer, activity feeds, people card, Skype); new scenarios (annotating, reading, meetings).

Shows slides/gives examples of consumers who’ve been trying out the new version of Office.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do to get the cost down,” Ballmer says. [A Microsoft spokeswoman later said Ballmer was referring there to the large-screen Perceptive Pixel displays.]

Ballmer says people can go to office.com/preview to try Office 365. It’s the Home Preview version. There’s also a preview version for business customers.

Says you’ll also be able to buy software. But encouraging people to give Office as a service a try.

Says Office on Windows 8 on Surface “beyond magical.” “This shapes up to be the most exciting, fun, productive year that I think any of us has had for a long time.”

12:13 p.m.: Kirk Koenigsbauer, CVP, comes on stage for a demo. He starts with a PowerPoint presentation. Shows how it works with touch interaction: uses finger to swipe from slide to slide; pinch and zooms in and out of slides; does annotations — mark-up — with a stylus, underlining and writing on the slide.

Koenigsbauer shows how the new Outlook looks. A new functionality: Replying in-line. Also new — something called “peek” – can hover over “calendar” or “people” or “tasks” at the bottom to get a peek of what’s in each of those.

Outlook.JPG

Says developers can build applications in the cloud that can be consumed in the Office application itself. Shows example of Bing Maps embedded in an email — the user can interact with the map within the email itself.

Now demonstrating Lync (communications) and OneNote (note taking). Shows annotation capabilities (with pen stylus) in OneNote. Shows a radial menu — a circle with menu action options — like camera.

Says Microsoft is transforming Office for the cloud. You can sign in, then get access to your templates, recent documents, etc — and all of that roams with you from device to device because the content is stored in the cloud. By default, the content will be stored in the cloud– in SkyDrive. You can store locally as well, but by default, your content will be stored in SkyDrive.

Word will have “reading mode” — more reading-friendly. Can inverse background (black background with white text) or vice versa. Can tap on a “comments” tab if there are comments. Can collapse sections as needed.

Integrating multimedia into these documents. A video can be embedded into the reading mode of Word.

A new featured called “live layout”: Drag a photo around, the text wraps around it.

Can share documents quickly by clicking on “Share” on the left — can invite people to view it, post to social networks, publish as a blog post.

Now he moves from tablet to laptop, to demonstrate how he can access the content that he just worked on. “SkyDrive is incredibly fundamental to this version of Office.”

“Last location” feature allows user to quickly get to where they were last working on a document.

He shows how this integrates with Windows Phone as well because all the content, changes, etc., stored on SkyDrive.

Now talking about Office as social.

Talks about SharePoint: the work Microsoft has done around social in SharePoint. There’s a newsfeed, list of people, documents, sites you’re following, list of documents you’re looking at, suggestion of documents you should be looking at. Can preview documents right in the newsfeed.

Says Skype now integrated directly into Office. Within an Outlook email, can get a sender’s contact info and video chat directly with them via Skype.

Now talking about Excel. A new feature called “flash fill.” Allows users who grab content from Web to analyze it — puts it into spreadsheet easier. Also a feature called “quick analysis”: When you hover over, say, charts or tables, a preview pane pops up showing what your data would look like in certain types of charts or tables.

Now he’s demonstrating at an 80-inch multi-touch Perceptive Pixel display running Windows 8. Shows how an app — e.g. Bing Sports app — looks on the large display – can zoom in and out using fingers. Says it opens up new scenarios for Office/modern offices such as meetings. He demonstrates a Lync video meeting. Can drag and drop a contact from Lync into the video meeting that shows up on the large display. Each meeting participant can annotate, share content.

Noon: Steve Ballmer takes the stage. Says it’s an exciting time, citing Windows 8, Surface, Windows Phone 8, Xbox, SmartGlass, “we bought a couple of companies in the last few months” – Yammer and Perceptive Pixel, introduced a new version of Bing, new wave of server products, etc.

Says the flagship application for Microsoft is Office. “Today we’re here to talk about a new version, a new generation, really, of Microsoft Office.” Says it’s the first version of Office that embodies Office as a service. “This is the most ambitious release of Microsoft Office that we’ve ever done.”

Says preview version of Office is available now.

Says this version of Office, and Office 365, ready to support people in modern way: “your modern office.” Says it’s designed with and takes advantage of Windows 8. Supports touch, new Windows 8 visual style, runs on ARM architecture devices. For some of the Office modules, means embracing the new modules — not just the desktop but also Windows RT Surface, Windows Phone 8. “Office is really designed with those things in mind.”

Modern Office thinks of cloud first, Ballmer says. That’s what he means by Office as a service. “Office uses the cloud to remember where you were and what you were doing.” Says need to support individuals and enterprise in this. Office also supports social: Embrace of Skype, ability to collaborate and work on projects together.

Modern Office also includes scenarios that become more important with digital tools, Ballmer says: Meetings, notes (“outside of journalists, most people still take notes on pencil and paper.”) — says the modern office embraces annotation, digital consumption.

11:25 a.m.: I’m at the Metreon Mall in San Francisco waiting for the doors to the event to open. Gee – I wonder what the focus of the event is:

Office1.JPG

(Photos by Janet I. Tu)

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