On a day when all eyes were fixed on the release of a test version of Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows 8 in Barcelona, the head of its Office division was in San Francisco laying out a broader vision for enterprise-mobile computing.
Office 2010, which so far has sold 200 million copies since it came to market, is enjoying strong sales at the same time Microsoft is developing the 15th version of the software to keep up with the push to mobile computing.
Executives speaking in San Francisco and Barcelona spelled out plans that indicate Microsoft will release new versions of its three biggest products late this year and early 2013: Windows 8, Windows Server 8 and Office 15.
Windows Server is the group of operating systems enterprises use to run their in-house data centers. It, Windows and Office have made Microsoft the dominant business-computing platform, running on about one billion personal computers world-wide. New versions the software tools are aimed at leveraging that franchise into the mobile-computing world.
"It's about expansion of what it means to be productive on the desktop," Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office division, said at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference.
Dubbed "build 15" or Office 15, a beta version of the software will be released this summer and "be the biggest release of Office we've ever done," he said. "It will be a simultaneous release of both our desktop software and our servers and services as well."
To work on tablets, Office had to be rewritten to work on ARM processors designed by ARM Holdings PLC (ARM.LN, ARMH), which create the low-power, touch-screen features common on tablets. In addition, the new version of Office will feature the Metro interface that first appeared on Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 operating system.
"It's really a no-compromise device," DelBene said of Office on the tablet. "Think about having full Office at your fingertips, having it tailored for a touch user experience, having it be able to work on the go." And when users dock the device, it has a keyboard and mouse for "cranking out spreadsheets and cranking out documents," he said.
Next, Office would potentially include note taking on a new Microsoft program called OneNote that turns writing on a touchscreen into typewritten text, DelBene said.
He also said Microsoft engineers were looking at incorporating Skype into Office and several other products. Microsoft Lync already provides secure voice and video communication within the enterprise. Skype may be a channel to extend communication with consumers. "Lots of our consumer properties could get lit up, if you will, through a Skype experience," he said.