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Microsoft to announce new Office version on Monday

Promises 'most transformational' release ever

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is widely expected to announce details of the next version of the Microsoft Office productivity suite on Monday USA Today reports, giving the public its first glimpse of a product that has so far remained shrouded in secrecy.

Microsoft has been calling the new version "Office 15," but come Monday we'll probably know it as Office 2013, assuming Redmond sticks to convention. To date, only "a select group of customers" have had their mitts on the new suite, via a technical preview program that began in January, and then only under a strict nondisclosure agreement.

The rest of us may soon get our chance, though, as Microsoft has promised a public beta this summer. In the meantime, just what to expect of the new release is practically anyone's guess.

We know that Microsoft plans to deliver a version of Office for ARM processors running Windows RT, but we don't know whether it will share the same UI or include all of the features of the x86 version.

It's a safe bet that Redmond will continue to integrate the suite with online services as it tries to steer customers toward its Office 365 subscription offering. Blogger Mary Jo Foley says Microsoft even plans to offer something called the Office 365 Fully Packaged Product (FPP), a prepaid subscription that will be available in retail stores.

It's also likely that Microsoft will give the Office UI a makeover to help it fit better with Windows 8's new Metro look and feel, as it did with Visual Studio earlier this year – though hopefully it's learned its lesson from that experiment.

If Microsoft sticks to a previously leaked roadmap, we can expect Office 2013 to ship in March of next year, though other reports say the ARM version will come bundled with Microsoft's Surface tablet when it debuts in October.

For now, Office-watchers might want to keep their eyes on the new Office Next blog, which launched Friday. In his first post, PJ Hough, Microsoft's vice president for Office program management, gushes, "In my 18 years at Microsoft, I think this is the most transformational release I've worked on!" ®

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