Microsoft hints at a new "generation of app experiences" coming for Office

The OneNote app for Windows 8.1 may be an example of what's to come for the rest of Office.

Microsoft may not be revealing much about their plans for the next version of Office just yet, but in a new Geekwire article, the head of marketing for that division gives some hints that it is working on some major changes beyond just new features.

The chat with John Case, the Microsoft Office corporate vice president for marketing, states that the OneNote app for Windows 8.1 could be an example of what is to come for the rest of the suite. He stated, "We’ll do more things like that, that will be about different form factors and different applications."

Case points out that the Office lineup has not seen any new apps in a long time and that Microsoft is working on new ways to create, organize and store content. He added:

As much we love Word, Excel and PowerPoint, there’s another generation of app experiences we want to enable. Some of it will feel like big stuff, and some will feel like small stuff. We want to let you create content in different ways that we think will be more personal for you.

The current rumors claim that Microsoft will launch Modern UI-based Office apps for Word, Excel and PowerPoint for Windows 8 sometime in the late spring or early summer of 2014. A port of the touch-based Office for Apple's iPad could be launched even before the Modern-Windows 8 versions.

Source: GeekWire | Image via Microsoft

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20 Comments

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That is correct. Office 2007 and 2010 happen to be my favorites. I have two licenses for Office 2013 (paid $10 for each) but saw no compelling reason to upgrade. Looks like we'll be using 2007 for a lot longer. I know many people still rocking Office 2000 and 2003, with business as usual.

They need to separate the core app logic from the OS/UI code then release different UIs for the different platforms with a common back end. So there would be a "Desktop" UI for regular desktops, laptops, and servers, a "Metro" UI for touchscreen devices, Surface tablets, and Windows Phones. (.Net based so it runs on ARM, Intel, etc.), an Android UI, an iOS UI, and an Mac UI. Maybe even split the common back end into a core and extended version where Windows Phone, Android, and iOS would use only the core subset while Desktop, Metro, and Mac use the full extended superset. I'm not saying that's an easy task but it's what they need to do going forward. Also they don't have to release all the front-end UIs at once.

Easier said that done.

I recently ported code that was entirely managed in order to create a PCL (Portable Class Library) that can run on both the desktop and in Modern mode. Let me tell you that it does require some work to eliminate non-portable methods and classes.

Now, for Office, considering the age of the code base (and the fact that it is unlikely to be managed), the task will be daunting.

Microsoft most probably developed "clean-room" code to handle the Office file formats. Then, considering how simplified the Modern apps will be, the UX was probably also created from scratch.

As a developer myself I KNOW it's not easy but it's really what they need to do. They can't maintain a ton of different code bases and most of the office app logic is not OS dependent so it should all be split into a common set of libraries they can use. Then they are free to make native UIs for the various platforms.
As for what code base they base the common libraries off of I made no comment at all. I'm not familiar enough with the Office code to be able to suggest the best path. Maybe it would be to split out the existing office, maybe it would be to "clean-room" a new one, maybe Office RT is already the start of this, I'm not sure and really I don't care HOW they do it but they need to do it.

Asmodai said,
They need to separate the core app logic from the OS/UI code then release different UIs for the different platforms with a common back end. So there would be a "Desktop" UI for regular desktops, laptops, and servers, a "Metro" UI for touchscreen devices, Surface tablets, and Windows Phones. (.Net based so it runs on ARM, Intel, etc.), an Android UI, an iOS UI, and an Mac UI. Maybe even split the common back end into a core and extended version where Windows Phone, Android, and iOS would use only the core subset while Desktop, Metro, and Mac use the full extended superset. I'm not saying that's an easy task but it's what they need to do going forward. Also they don't have to release all the front-end UIs at once.

You would be surprised how layered Office already is. (Microsoft fully layered out Office in like 97/98, but it angered a lot of Mac users as they weren't faithful in the UI layer.)

Remember that at one time, Microsoft Word was the most complex piece of software ever written. Now add 20 years and several other products, and it becomes very big and very impressive rather quickly.

So Microsoft is already on track to do this, but it is slower than people expect due to the complexity.

Yeap and Office 2007 onwards uses the MVVM pattern so the model views and commands are no longer tightly coupled - as in they dont reference each other and Microsoft can replace the UI simply by starting a new one independently.

VHMP01 said,
Its a Circular Ribbon!

Do you mean the radial menu as in OneNote MX? While I have always liked the concept I am not sure that it would be a good choice considering the complexity of Office.

Fritzly said,

Do you mean the radial menu as in OneNote MX? While I have always liked the concept I am not sure that it would be a good choice considering the complexity of Office.

I am sure the circular menu feature is included but we will have to wait and see for the rest.

Publisher could use an overhaul or discontinuation. Honestly, rolling it into Word wouldn't be totally terrible, either.

Serif's PagePlus is much better. Neither is Quark, inDesign, or Creator, but that's okay.

Publisher is a superb piece of software - but it's tools need to match the likes of some elements in PowerPoint - there really needs to be a more polished consistency across the various applications given there have been 15 versions!

He wasn't talking about the "Metro" OneNote app specifically. He was talking about OneNote in general, as an example of adding an entirely new app to the Office suite.

contextfree said,
He wasn't talking about the "Metro" OneNote app specifically. He was talking about OneNote in general, as an example of adding an entirely new app to the Office suite.

maybe moorea?