Feeds

Microsoft goes limited with Office 12 beta

New Office or same old suite?

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Oh no, Joe: WinPhone users already griping over 8.1 mega-update
Hang on. Which bit of Developer Preview don't you understand?
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
IRS boss on XP migration: 'Classic fix the airplane while you're flying it attempt'
Plus: Condoleezza Rice at Dropbox 'maybe she can find ... weapons of mass destruction'
Ditch the sync, paddle in the Streem: Upstart offers syncless sharing
Upload, delete and carry on sharing afterwards?
New Facebook phone app allows you to stalk your mates
Nearby Friends feature goes live in a few weeks
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.