Microsoft reveals Office 2013

Technology giant Microsoft has had spectacular success with its Office software. It’s already used by more than a billion people worldwide and is the system of choice for business, running on around 90% of company computers.

But, not one to rest on its laurels, Microsoft has unveiled a new version of Office at an event in San Francisco. Called Office 2013, the new generation software will launch next year.

Microsoft’s chief executive Steve Ballmer, speaking at the launch event, described Office 2013 as bold and beautiful, emphasising that it was not just aimed at the business market, but students, busy families and consumers too.

It’s all part of Microsoft’s strategy to future proof its services as consumers continue to look to the tablet and phone market. The usual range of applications, including Word, Outlook, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint have all been updated to improve how they use the touchscreen interfaces increasingly used by consumers who have phones and tablets.

According to Microsoft, more than half of all users now have three devices or more and 60% use the same devices in their work and personal lives so the firm wants to make sure they can use its systems across the board and on-the-go.

While the note-taking programme OneNote has need a major revamp to make it properly touchscreen compatible, the bulk of the applications have simply needed a bit of a polish to improve their functionality on both tablets and PCs.

Microsoft is also keen to keep up-to-date with social media developments so Word can now edit PDFs, save in the Adobe format and also has the added ability to embed YouTube clips more easily. Outlook has also undergone improvements so you can layer contact details or peaks on your calendar on top of your main mail window and add-on applications can help you get organised by automatically scanning emails for addresses and showing locations, or searching for suggested meetings and generating appointments.

More social networking elements aimed at business users have also been added so employees can follow colleagues, documents and tasks in the same way they would follow friends on Facebook. Having recently purchased the business social network Yammer for $1.2bn, Microsoft is also set to integrate Skype, another of its purchases, to allow calls and instant messaging to be built directly into its software.

PowerPoint hasn’t escaped the Microsoft revamp either, with a better presentation mode that allows users to project their documents onto a screen while simultaneously viewing notes and slides on their tablet or PC – perfect for those who need a bit of prompting during a presentation.

While Microsoft is still staggeringly profitable, its dominance does have challengers, particularly Google’s Apps suite, which offers its internet-based software for less than $50 per year. Microsoft has changed its Office 365 to a similar price but will be selling Office 2013 as a standalone piece of software with its subscription-based Office 365 selling in parallel. The firm is also working on updating more platforms in the future, including the software it offers for iPad.

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