Microsoft appears to be on the verge of launching the latest version of Office, according to a tweet the official Office Twitter account posted over the weekend. The tweet includes a picture of what Microsoft is setting up in New York City’s Bryant Park for launch day, specifying Jan. 29 as the day of the event.
The new version of Office, Office 2013, represents a rethink of the productivity software. Microsoft re-designed Office for Windows 8, changing aspects of the design, features and back end to better suit a world of touchscreens, cloud connectivity and social networks.
Although the new Office is designed for Windows 8 machines, it’s not actually a Windows 8 app. Office still runs in the traditional desktop environment, even on Windows RT devices.
Microsoft is also a changing the way it sells Office with the 2013 version. The software is now available via subscription, as opposed to the “pay once, for one machine” approach of the past. When a customer buys Office, they will be able to download it and install it on up to five machines (PCs, Macs or a mix). A subscription entitles multiple users to cloud content (such as continually updated templates), 20GB of SkyDrive storage, 60 minutes of Skype service and updates for new versions of the apps.
For businesses, things work a little differently. While a user can still install the software on up to five devices, the subscription is limited to one user. The business version also has built-in integration with Microsoft’s SharePoint, Lync and Exchange services (presumably plans for Yammer are in the works as well).
Pricing for the two versions is as follows: $99.95 a year for consumer, and $149.99 a year for business. Office will still be available as a one-shot download for those who want it, $219.99 for the Home and Business edition and $399.99 for the Professional edition.
With Office 2013, Microsoft is revamping third-party add-ons, renaming them apps and creating an store where developers can share their apps to all Office users. Office apps can even incorporate real-time data, such as a medal tracker Microsoft created for last year’s Olympic Games.
We reviewed at the consumer preview of Office 2013 and found it to be a true “21st Century” upgrade for the software. After working with it for a few days, switching back to old versions of Office “felt like I had pulled out a PC from a decade ago.”
What about other platforms? While versions of Office for iOS and Android have been rumored for over a year, there’s no new information on Office spreading beyond PCs and Macs.