We already know what you're thinking. Yes, there really have been 12 versions of MS Office. And no, there haven't been a whole lot of differences between them. But apparently, even Microsoft is aware of this, and it's a trend that they promise to break with Office 12
, due out the second half of 2006.
The news of the changes broke at Microsoft's own Professional Developer Conference 2005
, keynoted by big Bill himself on Tuesday. Charles Fitzgerald, who is the GM of their Platform Strategy Group, says Office 12 is "the biggest release of Office since 1995," when the software began to wildly outpace the competition from Lotus and Corel. MS has a lot riding on this new version, nicely timed with the release of Vista, because the updating and licensing of Office is one of the company's most profitable ventures. In 2003, Office accounted for over 25% of the total revenue, and around 67% of the net profits.
So what's the big change that will sway us to plop down our next $400.00? It's predictive intelligence. That means the software will attempt to determine a user's intents based on their keystrokes, and provide intuitive common commands. Think Mr. Paperclip, everyone's favourite office addition, on steroids...helping you every step of the way.
The technology was developed by recording every keystroke typed into the programs of users' machines in previous versions of office, assuredly under the full permission of those users (let us remember that acceptance of an EULA would constitute full permission).
MS also outlined their plans to make Office more seamlessly integrated with a server environment, a change which should be actually welcomed by IT administrators and document management specialists. The major highlight from this set of improvements was a chain-feature, where a document would go to three successive people, automatically sending the most updated one to the next in line when the previous user was finished.
Personally, Mr. Paperclip was the target of much ire and wrath in my office. I can't see an "always on" version of this, where your main right-click menus change with what it thinks you're doing will be any real selling point. In fact, I tend to like consistently seeing the same options when I click on a cell in Excel, or highlight a word in Office. The routine options allow me to work faster, since I don't have to read the entire menu each time. I have little faith in a piece of software that claims to know just what I'm doing. And frankly, if I have to give up the finally decent server-support for it, I think I'll be hitting "Save As..." a while longer.
How about you? Does the new Office sound like it can entice you or your office to make the move up? Write it in Word, then copy and paste it here in our forums.