Microsoft revamps Office for Windows 8

A customer preview of Microsoft’s new Office suite has gone live just a few months before Redmond officially launches its flagship Windows 8 operating system. 

The latest iteration of Office features an intuitive design clearly targeted at touch-oriented Metro tablets as well as traditional desktop PCs.

According to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, the new Office is social and “unlocks modern scenarios” in reading, note-taking and design.

“We are taking bold steps at Microsoft,” Ballmer said at a press conference in San Francisco.

“The new, modern Office will deliver unparalleled productivity and flexibility for both consumers and business customers. It is a cloud service and will fully light-up when paired with Windows 8.”

As noted above, the new Office includes a number of key features targeted at our brave new mobile world, including advanced touch and stylus support for digital note-taking, along with new applications like OneNote and Lync.

The Windows RT version also boasts freshly coded versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote – which will be arrive pre-loaded on ARM-based Windows 8 devices, complete with SkyDrive (saves content automatically), roaming and optional (subscription-based) Office on Demand which allows users to access Office by streaming full-featured applications to an Internet-connected Windows-based device.

Microsoft has also put a huge emphasis on social features with its new Office, offering easy access to Yammer, SharePoint, People Card (syncs with FB and LinkedIn) and Skype (60 world minutes free per month).

Although the full lineup of offerings and pricing plans will only be announced in the fall, Ballmer discussed three new Office 365 subscription services this afternoon.

All include new 2013 editions of the Office applications – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access. In addition, subscribers will receive future rights to version upgrades as well as per-use rights across up to five PCs or Macs and mobile devices.

The three new editions are as follows:

  • Office 365 Home Premium – Targeted at families and consumers, includes an additional 20 GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 minutes of Skype world minutes per month.
  • Office 365 Small Business Premium – Designed for small businesses, offers business-grade email, shared calendars, website tools and HD webconferencing.
  • Office 365 ProPlus – Coded for enterprise customers who want advanced business capabilities and the flexibility to deploy and manage in the cloud.