Microsoft Office 2013 Preview

Today Microsoft announced Office 2013 and provided general access to a preview version. I’m delighted to come out from under wraps to report that ComplyXL supports Office 2013.

The announcement was a webcast shown at noon PDT and led by Steve Ballmer. However the interesting stuff was presented by Kirk Koenigsbauer who demonstrated Office 2013 on a Surface tablet.

Kirk’s demo was conducted using a Microsoft Surface tablet running Windows 8. A major focus of Office 2013 is support for touch in Windows 8. Office 2013 does run on a PC with Windows 7 (its on Windows 7 we tested Office 2013 with ComplyXL). But there is an intense focus on many interesting little enhancements to various Office products intended to make using Office practical when used on a tablet. I don’t want to give the appearance of dismissing these changes which seemed really appropriate. However…

Windows on ARM

To me what was remarkable about the demo was that it was on a Surface tablet. One based on an ARM CPU not an x86 CPU. Ballmer later reinforced this by drawing attention to the fact this was full Windows and Office running on an ARM chip. So the demo dismissed the notion that Windows and Office on an ARM based Surface device will be some cut down product.

This has to be a concern for Apple and especially Android. Its now clear that in a few months Microsoft intends to release a tablet that is enterprise-ready, one with all the benefits and pitfalls of Windows. Benefits and pitfalls corporate IT departments know so may have an easier time getting into the enterprise.

The New iPad has the high resolution ‘retina’ display which is a real benefit. But it lacks many enterprise features and *any* mouse support so its a challenge to use the iPad in the enterprise to, for example, access a remote desktop or undertake other ‘legacy’ functions. Sure, some remote desktop clients for the iPad have on-screen mice but then you need to lift your fingers to the screen all day and that’s tiring. By contrast Microsoft’s Surface tablet has a track pad built into the keyboard which is part of the Surface device’s cover. I’m sure omitting mouse support was intended to reinforce the touch aspect of the iPad but it seem to me to be strange decision.

No one expects Microsoft’s Surface tablet to be cheap. The speculation I’ve read suggests the same price as an iPad. So for the price conscious market Android will be well represented (perhaps by Kindle Touch from Amazon). At the more expensive end there will be the iPad with it’s high resolution screen and Microsoft’s Surface tablet running Windows 8 and Office 2013. The iPad has it’s AppStore (TM) but potentially Microsoft has every application running on Windows on a tablet. And if there is a high solution version of Surface so much the better.

The Cloud

Of course Microsoft felt compelled to play catch up by letting everyone know they were good cloud citizens too. But are they? The example shown in the demo was of people collaborating on documents. One was him working on a Word document at work and then at home (different machine, see). The document could even be seen on a Windows 8 phone (no mention of other devices that are actually used). The other example was a group collaborating around a OneNote document.

In either case, these documents are stored in the ‘cloud’. Actually by Microsoft’s SkyDrive service. What if I don’t want to use SkyDrive? What if I want to use my company’s storage facility or Amazon S3? Where is this data being stored. Can I control the jurisdiction so the laws of my country apply to its access and retention? What about security of it’s storage? No mention was made of any of these issue let alone the answers.

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