First look: Microsoft Office 2013

The next revision of Office adds touches of Metro without itself being a Metro app

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Just enough Metro
In the run-up to Office 2013's preview release, speculation flew fast and far about how much the new Office would be beholden to Windows 8. Most widely argued was whether or not the suite would be Metro-centric, or at least have certain elements deployed on top of Metro.

Microsoft decided not to go that route, and the reasons seem twofold. One, all signs hint that Windows 8 is not going to displace the existing market for Windows 7; instead, the two OSes will sell side by side (shades of Windows XP and Windows Vista). This means making any significant amount of Office functionality Metro-only would be a mistake.

Two, Metro is an environment designed for what others have called "lean-back mode." It's a consumption environment, not a production one. The only parts of Office 2013 that would make sense being Metro-ized are the likes of document overview or print preview modes -- and both remain safely on the legacy desktop.

Instead, Microsoft has given Office 2013 a Metro-style makeover without making it an actual Metro app. The word "Metro" doesn't even appear in the reviewer's guide handed out for testers of the beta. Microsoft also added a few key touch-centric features -- again, just enough to make Office useful on a touch system without forcing people to rely on it.

What we have here, then, is an Office designed to be transitional in more ways than one. Aside from a way to ease people into using a Metro-styled app without actually throwing them headfirst into Metro, Office 2013 is also a way to get people more accustomed to using cloud-based services casually, as a primary extension of their existing applications instead of a secondary adjunct to them. It is evolution on multiple fronts without being a revolution on any one of them. Whether or not that's enough to stave off competition and attrition is something we'll only find out once Windows 8 and Office 2013 are released for real.

This article, "First look: Microsoft Office 2013," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in applications and Windows at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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