Feeds

Microsoft goes limited with Office 12 beta

New Office or same old suite?

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

After months of teasing previews, Microsoft has finally given the next version of its desktop productivity suite its first, if limited, outing.

Microsoft has released a beta of Office 12, called a technical beta, to 10,000 pre-screened developers working at partner companies and customers. A general beta is due next spring with Office 12 scheduled for the "second half" of 2006.

Microsoft resorted to its characteristic bombast in announcing the beta, describing Office 12 as "redefining the Office experience" and "the most significant release" of Office in more than 10 years.

For once, Microsoft is remotely close to the truth - at least on its latter claim. Recent versions of Office - Office 2000, Office XP and Office 2003 - have lacked the features required to persuade 30 per cent of the Office user base to move off of the eight-year-old Office 97. Customers have eschewed tighter integration and splashy features, believing Office 97 to be "good enough." Just 15 per cent of PCs are running Office 2003.

Early indications are Office 12 will indeed offer something new. Being timed for the Windows Vista operating system, Office 12 will share Vista's WinFX XML mark-up interface. The Office 12 file formats are also in XML, but not the OpenDocument Format (ODF) supported by IBM, Sun and others.

Office 12 will feature improved business intelligence (BI). Excel spreadsheets will be able to access corporate data held in SQL Server while a server-based set of Excel Services will allow customers to secure and share data.

One of the most touted, and eagerly welcomed, advances is Microsoft's decision to make existing features in Office easier to access. Office 12 uses icons instead of drop-down menus to expose capabilities like drawing charts in Excel or turning bullet points into PowerPoint graphics.

Microsoft has also promised new Office bundles, with a "premium" edition of Office due. It is not year clear what features the premium edition will carry or what the price will be. The current "high-end" edition of Office is Office Professional Edition, priced $380 per copy.

Elsewhere, Office 12 is a bit ho hum. Microsoft is borrowing Apple Computers' "widgets" for non-browser-based information and internet services, introduced with OS X Tiger this year. Microsoft's offering is rather inimaginatively called "gadgets", with developers encouraged to build their own gadgets. Under the category of "why didn't they do that sooner?" Microsoft is adding the ability to save Office files as PDFs. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
Mathematica hits the Web
Wolfram embraces the cloud, promies private cloud cut of its number-cruncher
Mozilla shutters Labs, tells nobody it's been dead for five months
Staffer's blog reveals all as projects languish on GitHub
'People have forgotten just how late the first iPhone arrived ...'
Plus: 'Google's IDEALISM is an injudicious justification for inappropriate biz practices'
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
iOS 8 Healthkit gets a bug SO Apple KILLS it. That's real healthcare!
Not fit for purpose on day of launch, says Cupertino
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.