Earlier this year, Microsoft released an early build of Microsoft Office 15 to a select group of industry analysts. Because this limited release was under a strict non-disclosure agreement and because a more widespread release isn’t due out until sometime this summer, few details have been made available to the public at this time. Even so, some information about Microsoft Office 15 has leaked out.
As such, in this article, I want to take the opportunity to discuss some of the things that we might expect from the next Microsoft Office release.
One of the big new changes to Microsoft Office will be that it is designed to work with the cloud. The exact nature of how Microsoft Office 15 will be tied to the cloud still remains a mystery, but a video that was leaked seems to confirm the idea that Microsoft Office 15 will be tightly tied to the cloud. The 30-second video explains that when you sign into Office your documents go where you go and are accessible from any device.
While I have to admit that the idea of signing into Microsoft's Office seems a little bit strange, the idea is not exactly unprecedented. After all, Google Apps (which were designed to compete with Microsoft Office) are based in the cloud and have always required a sign-on.
I think that there are a few things that can safely be assumed about the sign-on process. First, I think that for most users the sign-on process will be tied to the user’s Microsoft Live ID. I also suspect, however, that Office 365 subscribers will be able to use their Office 365 credentials instead.
The previously mentioned video explains that when you sign in to Microsoft Office, your documents will follow you from place to place. I think it stands to reason that the mechanism that Microsoft will use to accomplish this is Microsoft Sky Drive.
One of the reasons why I think this makes sense is because Microsoft is already using Sky Drive for this purpose. For example, Windows Phone 7 is designed to store Microsoft Office documents either locally (within the phone) or to a Sky Drive account. The phone does not contain an option to store Microsoft Office documents to network drives or other types of external storage.
Being that Microsoft Office 15 will be cloud-enabled, one can't help but wonder whether the software itself will be deployed on premise or in the cloud. My guess is that Microsoft will offer both options. There are a few different reasons why I believe this to be the case.
First, it is important to note that those who were chosen to participate in an early testing of Microsoft Office 15 were provided with software that could be installed on their own computers. I seriously doubt that Microsoft would have gone through all the trouble to create the software if Office 15 were only going to be accessible through the cloud.
Of course, that isn't to say that Microsoft won't make Office 15 available through the cloud. Cloud-based applications such as Microsoft Office Web Apps and Google Apps have proven the feasibility of operating desktop productivity software directly in the cloud. Furthermore, the fact that Microsoft created Office Web Apps in the first place clearly demonstrates that it has an interest in offering Microsoft Office products as a hosted solution.
I personally believe that Microsoft will make Office 15 available in both on-premise and hosted solutions. This idea completely fits with the company's current business model. For instance, right now the company offers enterprise server products such as Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and Microsoft Lync as both on-premise and cloud solutions. It therefore seems logical that Microsoft will continue this trend and make Office 15 available both locally and in the cloud.