Consumers have not yet gotten their hands on Office 2010 (code-named Office 14), but Microsoft is already working busily on Office 15. Steve Ballmer and company have not yet been particularly vocal about what we can expect in the future version, but a little poking around the Web reveals what improvements we might expect, including improvements in collaboration, mobile access, and Outlook connectivity.
As Microsoft Kitchen blogger Stephen Chapman has discovered, some clues of future design details appear in Microsoft's help wanted ads, which include references to Office 15 and "the next" version of Office. For example, one ad for a test engineer says, "Outlook is incredibly complex. It connects to several different servers today (Exchange, SharePoint, POP/SMTP, IMAP) and it will get more complex moving into the future (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace)."
Meanwhile, an ad for a software developer hints at greatly expanded mobile capabilities in Office 15: "Our key focus going forward is designing and developing new end to end Mobile Office scenarios that greatly improve mobile meetings, productivity, and document management."
Elsewhere on the Web, Word Program Manager Jonathan Bailor spills a few beans about Word 15 at the end of an interview about Office 2010: "In Office 15, we'd love to take collaboration and communication to the next level. We've unlocked all of these new ways to work and a new set of expectations from users, and we're like, 'Put us back in the ring; we're ready for round two.' Until coauthoring a document is as easy and ubiquitous as e-mail attachments, our job isn't done."
Chapman also presents some speculation about a changing user interface and "major new feature" for Excel 15, but I'm very skeptical. Will Microsoft ditch the Ribbon? No way. And I don't figure there's much chance Microsoft will sink lots of money in any major new features for Excel, when development seems to be firmly pointed toward the cloud. That's where the money -- and the glamor -- reside.