Microsoft has released a preview version of the next Office suite, available for free to anyone running the Windows 10 Technical Preview and promising ground-up support for use on a touch-centric device.
Part of the company's attempt to unify the worlds of mobile and desk-bound technology, the next iteration of Microsoft Office is due to land later this year alongside the company's Windows 10 operating system. Like Windows 10 itself, the next-generation Office suite will focus heavily on providing a user experience which is suited to touch, pen or mouse interaction depending on the device in use - something that brought Microsoft a considerable amount of negativity when it attempted the same in Windows 8.
Dubbed Office Universal Apps, the new release bundles Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook with optimisations which mean they can scale from a small-scale phone device to a desktop machine - although in preview form only Word, Excel and PowerPoint for tablets, laptops and desktops are available. Microsoft has indicated that smartphones and small-screen tablets - likely 7" and below, larger devices being treated by Microsoft as desktop-class - will receive the software free of charge.
Office for Windows 10 isn't the company's only impending launch, however. The touch-centric 'Universal Apps' will be joined by Office 2016, a fully-featured release of the productivity suite designed for traditional keyboard and mouse use and expected to launch in the second half of this year. Whether this means that Office for Windows 10 will be unavailable to non-touch devices is not yet clear, with Microsoft promising to release more information on the divide between Office for Windows 10 and Office 2016 in the coming months.
For those who have the Windows 10 Technical Preview installed, Word, Excel and PowerPoint should be available from the Windows Store Beta; at the time of writing, however, a bug was preventing them from being installed - an issue Microsoft was in the process of fixing. More information is available on the Office blog