There has been quite a stir kicking around the web about Office 15 and if it will truly be a Metro style product or if it will stick to its ribbon design that many adore.
What we mean by that is Metro, by its very nature, is completely different UI when compared to anything Microsoft has done in its recent past. It’s a new style of interface that works great for most applications like Windows Phone, Xbox, and soon, Windows 8, but may not fit natively with the Office suite.
This morning, the Verge posted up a rumor that Office 15 will not go full Metro. Instead, it will receive design tweaks that will make it look a bit more native compared to the current versions of Office; there will also be a new radial menu design to make it a bit more touch friendly. Additionally, the ARM variant of applications “will also be desktop applications, running in a restricted Windows 8 ARM desktop mode designed for power efficiency.”
What this basically boils down to, apart from the source saying that it will have a close, but not a full Metro branding, is that Office will not match Windows 8 natively. Supposedly, the idea to go full Metro was pushed back as a means to save time on production. Considering Microsoft looks to release Office in roughly 3 year increments, Office 2003, Office 2007, Office 2010 and Possibly Office 2012/13-ish, it could be as late as 2015/16 before we see a fully redesigned Office application in Metro.
So what does that mean for the next variation of Office? Mary-Jo Foley speculates that Office may land in late 2012 on whispers she keeps hearing, again this is speculation at best. Because of this timing, it would not have given Microsoft enough time to do a deep cleaning of Office to make sure that all aspects align to the new Metro design language. Foley also surmises that because Office 15 will not be full Metro, it will be a legacy, or desktop, application.
So why is this such a big deal? Microsoft is going all in to turn its products to the Metro interface. Seeing that Office is a cornerstone product for the company, leaving it out of the Metro game would have it stand out when compared to its other products.
The image at the top of the screen was an early leak of Office 15 from back in March of 2011. While certainly not representative of the Technical Preview, it is the last look we had of the product and it does show a bit of the flattening that could be apparent in the final release.
Either way, we will know this summer.