Our first glimpse of what the next version of Microsoft Office is going to look like on Windows RT was finally revealed during the keynote presentation at TechEd North America. TechEd is Microsoft’s big IT conference, drawing in developers for the purpose of keeping them educated and up to date on all the most important things going on with the company at any given time. The concerns over the divide between Windows 8 editions for x86 / x64 and Windows RT for ARM are big enough at the moment that it makes sense to lead with something big.
While we have been told that Windows RT will ship with a version of Office pre-installed, there has been little information beyond that to draw on. Naturally nobody expects the touch screen input to work as well as a keyboard when it comes to word processing and spreadsheets, but that doesn’t mean that an Office designed for touch couldn’t still beat out the competition.
There has also been the concern that Microsoft would go too far with the Metro theme and in doing so cause a decline in productivity for users of the product. The one thing that we can be fairly sure nobody needs is an animated, cloud-connected, social network enhanced spreadsheet interface.
Fortunately, it looks like the transition didn’t do any major damage.
We aren’t talking about major variations here. Aside from the fact that the brief glimpse included the words “PREVIEW EDITION” and acknowledged that it was a preview specific to Windows RT, it wouldn’t be easily differentiated from the desktop version. Clearly there is a bit of Windows 8 visual styling to be seen in the color scheme, status bar. etc., but that’s about it.
Even the fact that at this point it is still running as a desktop app would seem to point to Microsoft’s maintaining a line between internet sociability or consumption and powerful productivity applications. The one clear concession that people have been able to point to, as far as accommodating the tablet format’s limitations, has been the removal of the ability to pin open the Ribbon. Clearly that wouldn’t be something that works so well when many tablets already have particularly limited vertical space in landscape orientation, but likely the same function will be served on demand with a gesture or short-term setting.
We’re probably going to be able to pull off some hands-on reviews of Microsoft Office 2013 in the next month or so, if rumors are to be believed. While there is still basically no chance that the ARM tablets will be ideal for all your desktop replacement needs to the point of working well with Office, the experience looks to have been kept substantial rather than being overly simplified to fit the new interface. Perhaps we’ll be seeing a big influx of Windows RT keyboard accessories for those who like to take their work on the go?