Office 15

Goodbye Office 2010; hello Office 15! After some extensive (see: exhaustive) research, I’ve unearthed enough to confidently say that Office 15 planning is not only under way, but thriving as well. Amongst all the information are implications as to when Microsoft aims for its release, some of what Microsoft is specifically focusing on in their plans, mentions of specific Office 15 applications, services, and more! Follow along as I take you from the earliest mentions of Office 15 back in September 2009 up through to the very latest of what’s floating around from job postings, employee profiles, documents, and more. If you don’t feel like delving into the whole post, I’ve summarized the key points at the bottom of the post for quick review.

 

It’s Official: Office 15, the Codename

Beginning with a bit of history, I’ve been keeping my eye on Office 15 since September 2009 when I first noticed what seemed to be an employee referring to the next version of Office as “Office 15″ and “Office 2013.” A couple of months afterwords, I made note of a program manager mentioning Office 15 in an interview on Microsoft’s website. Shortly thereafter, references were also being discovered by MJ Foley and others. Fast-forward 6 months and now there are job postings on Microsoft’s Careers website that specifically reference “Office 15″ in various contexts which I will be referencing shortly.

 

Additionally, residing on Microsoft’s download servers is a PDF document by a company named Basex who makes mention of Office 15. Though in its own right, that doesn’t say much since any random company could simply reference “Office 15″ from what they’ve read elsewhere, the fact that the document is being served on Microsoft’s download servers lends a little more to its credibility:

 

Office 15

 

Now, I know some of you are saying, “alright, already — it’s called “Office 15,” geez.” The reason I’m being so thorough is that an impending codename is never guaranteed (as we learned with “Office 13“) and I would rather err on the side of too much information to state my case than not enough. And for those of you who still aren’t sold, don’t worry; much more “Office 15″ referencing is on the way.

 

Release Date Implication: Office 15, a.k.a. Office 2013

Along with my previous mention of what appeared to be an employee referencing the next version of Office as “Office 2013,” I’ve now found a similar reference from the following job profile of Microsoft employee Adam Callens courtesy of LinkedIn:

 

Directly engaged IT Pros to understand pain points and opinions of trending technology and drove their concerns directly into our planning pillars for Office 2013.

 

Basically, the key (and ridiculously obvious) takeaway here is the year Microsoft aims to release Office 15: 2013. With Windows 8 rumored to wrap up between late-2011 and sometime in 2012, that would potentially position the release of Office 2013 within a similar cadence to Office 2010, where Office 2010 was released well-after Windows 7 as opposed to alongside it as was Office 2007 with Windows Vista.

 

Office 15: Goodbye Ribbon UI?

This is mere speculation on my behalf, but the following found on Microsoft employee Josh Leong’s LinkedIn profile provides a vague-yet-enticing user experience mention that gets me thinking on the track of if Microsoft is going to simply refine the Ribbon UI as they did with Office 2010, or if they’re going to opt for something completely different:

 

Designing the new visual & interaction experience for Office 15.

 

The Ribbon UI is highly-touted in Microsoft’s products since its implementation in Office 2007. It has been carried through to much of Windows 7’s OOTB applications like MS Paint, Calculator, WordPad, and more recently, refined in Office 2010. Personally, I’m not so willing to bet that it will be done away with in place of something drastically different by the Office 15 time frame. I feel as though Microsoft will see to getting as much mileage as they can out of the Ribbon UI. Having a look at Josh’s personal page, it appears he does some pretty forward-thinking concepts (which probably don’t include the Ribbon UI), so I’ll certainly be paying close attention to any work on that front.

 

Office Mobile 15

Remember the job postings on the Microsoft Careers website I said I would be referencing? You guessed it; now is that time! Here, we have two job postings seeking to fulfill different positions on the same Office team. Both ads make reference to the Office Mobile suite and hint at additional functionality being planned for Office 15. Clearly not going anywhere, Microsoft acknowledges the need for Office tools on mobile devices and they’re obviously positioning themselves to meet that need as best they can through the Office 15 time frame (albeit, specifically on their mobile OS platform).

 

Now is your chance to get in on the ground floor of the Office organization’s newest team. The Office Mobile suite includes Communicator Mobile, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, SharePoint, with more applications and capabilities being planned as part of the Office 15 product suite. This unique position involves technical challenges of working across multiple operating systems and devices as well as the chance to work with teams across the company and around the world. Our key focus going forward is designing and developing new end to end Mobile Office scenarios that greatly improve mobile meetings, productivity, and document management. All while taking advantage of the greater computing power, networking, memory, screen & touch, and GPS capabilities on next generation mobile computing platforms.

Source 01: https://careers.microsoft.com/JobDetails.aspx?jid=16832
Source 02: https://careers.microsoft.com/JobDetails.aspx?jid=16684

 

Outlook 15, Access 15, SharePoint 15, and Excel 15 Services Planning

Now to touch on some vaguely-mentioned specifics that are planned for Office 15 inclusion, I’ll begin with another job ad located on the Microsoft Careers site. This time, we see the Outlook team seeking a candidate to help impact the Outlook 15 release:

 

Outlook is currently in the process planning for Office 15. Right now is an excellent time to utilize your passion for engineering, contribute in the strategy and have a major impact on what Outlook does for the next release.

Source: https://careers.microsoft.com/JobDetails.aspx?jid=17753

 

Up next, the following Microsoft employee’s LinkedIn profile contains a mission statement-of-sorts for their part in Office 15 planning. Receiving shout-outs are Access 15, SharePoint 15, and Excel 15. At the very least, it’s safe to assume that those applications/services are being considered for inclusion in Office 15. Have a look:

 

Office 15 Planning (Feb 2010 – present): Initial planning of user session management in Access Services 15.
• Identifying load balancing and session management requirements for Access Services 15;
• Investigating existing features for this purpose in SharePoint and Excel Services;
• Deep understanding of the existing implementation in Excel Services;
• A final set of suggestions on planning the implementation.

 

Excel 15 to Contain a “Major New Feature”

An employee by the name of Ben Gable has a rather interesting mention in his LinkedIn profile. Having completed a 12-week internship in the Office Excel group, he apparently has quite an offering to be unveiled in Office 15 (specifically, Excel 15). Who knows as of yet what that could possibly be, but it certainly sounds exciting. Here’s a snippet from his listed experience:

 

• Designed major new feature to be introduced in Office 15
• Wrote 80-page spec
• Managed tight deadlines
• Led technical team to plan implementation
• Held Office-wide review meetings
• Consulted with international Excel clients in financial services
• Coordinated with Product Research to hone feature design for the needs of world-wide Excel clients.
• Led usability testing. Created demos and mock-ups for usability tests. Analyzed data and presented findings. Used testing results to validate design decisions.
• Completed project 2 weeks ahead of schedule

 

Word 15: Taking Collaboration and Communication to the Next Level with Coauthoring

While browsing through recent interviews that populate the Microsoft Press Pass website, Microsoft Word program manager Jonathan Bailor answered some questions in regards to Office 2010. At the end of the interview, he was asked, “What’s next for you at Microsoft?” His answer sheds a bit of light of what may well be a major focus for Word 15:

In Office 15, we’d love to take collaboration and communication to the next level. We’ve unlocked all of these new ways to work and a new set of expectations from users, and we’re like, “Put us back in the ring; we’re ready for round two.” Until coauthoring a document is as easy and ubiquitous as e-mail attachments, our job isn’t done.

 

Customer Management and Relationship Marketing

If you keep up with Microsoft as a business (as opposed to just using their products), you’re probably familiar with the emphasis they place on their relationships with high-profile customers and partners. Employee Kristin Fitzpatrick’s LinkedIn profile shows that Microsoft is keeping true-to-form by identifying scenarios and key partners, as well as building business cases — all for research and development, planning, and feature request submittal. Detailed below are some of Kristin’s noted areas of work in these early stages of Office 15 development:

• Identified and built business case for in-product Relationship Marketing (RM) areas of investment in Office 15: identified successful examples of in-product RM (that increased usage & SAT) across Microsoft, worked with research vendor to quantify business impact, prioritized top areas of investment, and socialized results (CXM walking deck and Business Perspectives) with Office Product Management.
• Integrated CXM feature requests into Office 15 planning by identifying relevant partners, establishing new relationships, and understanding key milestones and points of engagement.
• Set up process for prioritizing Marketing requests to R&D (Office Online) to ensure feature requests were consistent with overall business strategy and R&D bandwidth.

 

Personas and Automation

Thanks to the following Microsoft employee’s LinkedIn profile, we learn here that Microsoft is researching and defining personas as well as focusing on upgrading Office’s Automation Framework (which some of you advanced Office users out there should be thrilled to hear). Here’s the profile quote:

 

CODE COVERAGE DRIVER
– Monitored code coverage for our Automation suite and communicated status to Management.
– Trained the team to use code coverage for effective Automation.
O15: Came up with a strategy to use code coverage as a product health check and signoff tool for O15 and presented to management.
O15 PROJECTS
– Working with a few PMs to research and define Personas to target for O15.
– Leading the effort to fix our Automation Framework.

 

Office 15: Everyone Matters

I thought the following mention of Office 15 in the following LinkedIn profile was cute when placed in context of everything else above. This just goes to show that everyone from the top developers, designers, and managers all the way down to the testers and assistants help the planning process to happen as smoothly as possible!

 

Download data, create spreadsheets and other statistical reports to aid in Office 15 framework.

 

Conclusion: Key Takeaways

Well, this wraps up everything I’ve dug up thus far. To summarize the key aspects of all the information above, I thought I would culminate a list of key takeaways. Thanks for reading and please do chime in with your comments! In no particular order:

 

  • Office 15 is without a doubt the codename for the next version of Office.
  • 2013 appears to be the magic year Microsoft aims to release the next version of Office.
  • Office Mobile 15 is at the very least a consideration alongside the planning of Office 15.
  • Currently known to be planned for Office 15 inclusion are Outlook 15, Word 15, Access 15, SharePoint 15, and Excel 15.
  • Office 15 will sport a new user interface. How drastic of a change it will be is yet to be determine.
  • Excel 15 may include a “major new feature” completely new to the Office suite, courtesy of Office 15.
  • Improving document coauthoring, a new tool in Office 2010, appears to be a primary focal point for Word 15.
  • Target personas are being researched and defined for Office 15 focus.
  • Office 15 should see an improved Automation Framework.

 

-Stephen Chapman
http://msftkitchen.com

98 Comments

  1. Great article Stephen. You’ve got a plethora of interesting pieces of information.

    What grabbed my interest the most is Office Mobile 15. Here is the thing, no matter how many features Microsoft tries to squeeze into their Mobile Office suite on a smartphone, users will likely not get the most of it, and maybe even ignore the suite in general mainly for the fact that they’re using a virtual keyboard on a 3.5″ touch-screen (and we all know how inconvenient that could be if you’re trying to work on Office documents). I think Microsoft knows about these issues, and thats what they’re trying to change…completely.

    What I am about to say might be a bit of a stretch but who knows, I could be right one day. Microsoft’s next major release of Office Mobile 15 will mainly be focused on tablets and slate PCs (last time I checked, those devices are also considered ‘Mobile’, right?). Office Mobile 15 might even run on a special edition of Windows Phone 7 (they probably will rebrand WP7 to something more generic than just for ‘Phones’).

    Am I dreaming? I hope not.

  2. I don’t want to make you feel like you’ve wasted your time but it seems that all you have found out is that Office 14 will be followed by Office 15 and the new version will have some improvements and new features.

    Isn’t that kinda obvious?!?

  3. Thom: Sure, you can look at it like that, but what’s the point of most news if you look at it all like that? Isn’t it always obvious that any new product of something is going to contain improvements and new features? The point of the post is mainly to show everyone what’s being said on behalf of Microsoft (in some capacity, at least) regarding a product that’s in its very early planning stages. There are plenty of specifics and points verified that I felt a post was necessary. Basically, I didn’t feel this was a waste of my time, so I put it out there for others to enjoy who feel the same way. =) I do get your point, though. At the end of the day, this is a hobby for me and perhaps I get a little too excited over what some would consider to be nothing. I’m okay with that.

  4. Hey Stephen, thanks for this post. It’s exciting to know there is a new version of Office is definitely coming out! I’m looking forward to what this “major new feature” might be. I don’t see PowerPoint or Publisher on the list of inclusions, so does this mean those won’t be available for Office 15? Maybe the new feature will be a complete multimedia redesign of PowerPoint?

  5. Ahmed Eltawil: Thanks! I agree that the Office Mobile platform will probably one day be utilized for non-phone-based hardware. The future of just about everything is mobile, so that would certainly fit right in there.

  6. TuneUp: Yeah, who knows what the “major new feature” is… personally, I don’t find myself having any real needs with Excel — it does everything I personally need, so I really can’t think of anything at the moment. I’m sure Powerpoint will be present and provide much more functionality than the current (even though Powerpoint 2010 is really, really awesome on its own)! Thanks for the comment. =)

  7. I hope pptPlex will be built directly into PowerPoint in 15. :) It’s a shame this project has been discontinued!

  8. Nice write-up! I tested out the new Office Web-apps today with Office 2010 Word… You can start working from the web… open the document with Office from desktop and it will save it back to the web… pretty sweet experience so far..

  9. That LinkedIn profile was for an SDET, so the automation referred to is not likely Office Automation Framework. Rather, it’s the test automation built to verify code the SDEs write.

  10. I would be happy of new office 15 would be more stable and less “bubbly”.

    That means that is should focus more on its compatibility in text processing than on picture editing or working with graphs.

  11. I’d be very surprised if it was a drastic UI change from the ribbon because they’ve only just got it standard across all Office desktop and web apps, plus various Windows 7 programs, plus the Live Essentials suite….etc.

    If you looked at someone talking about redesigning the UI between Office 2007 and 2010, you might wonder if they meant doing away with the ribbon, but in reality all the updates/changes to the ribbon, plus the Backstage file UI could represent just that.

    Personally, I think there might be a lot of room to do away with the rest of the dialog boxes that still exist in 2010. Backstage went a long ways towards that end, but I can imagine more done with contextual screens on the main interface to improve on that. Plus the communication/coauthoring enhancements they talk about could also be heavy UI elements.

  12. @RC

    I think you’re spot on there. There was some exciting focus group work on the program management side in the Office 2010 (14) time frame to design more non-modal UIs to replace the aging modal dialog boxes.

    The entire point of the Ribbon is that it is both non-modal (doesn’t force you to close it to keep working) and contextual (UI that is not relevant to what you are doing is hidden under a different tab).

    The “Back Stage View” is a modal UI, but it returns you to the document. The Taskpanes found in Office XP onward are modeless UIs, and “the taskpane” from Office XP was a single pane that only allowed one pane to be available at once. Most of that functionality was integrated into the Ribbon in Office 2007. More of these taskpane-like surfaces appeared in Office 2010 such as navigation and object selection and reviewing tools, and some document properties and animation objects which have non-visible content also have their UI in these contextual taskpanes.

    It is likely that the Office team will continue to tweak and refine the user experience, but it is unlikely that the UI will drastically change or that an entire set of features in an application will suddenly vanish and be replaced by broken features because the leaders of the team have a number of forcing functions they are evaluated against to get their review scores which tends to mean that they are risk averse. ;)

  13. Interesting article Stephen. A couple of things to add:

    Back in December 2009 the Access team wanted feedback on how to better integrate Access with SQL Server – http://blogs.msdn.com/b/access.....erver.aspx This is a high priority for the professional Access developers. The other thing that did not make the deadline for the 2010 release was project ‘Huron’ real-time synchronisation between Access and SQL Server so this HAS to be in too (a lot of people were really disappointed that this missed the cut as the demos of the prototype were all built on Access!).

    I suspect the big new feature for Excel will be an improved data visualisation component. The Excel team were asking for suggestions in June 2010 – http://blogs.msdn.com/b/excel/.....excel.aspx
    As Excel is such a core component to the Microsoft BI strategy this is well overdue, especially as innovative data visulaisation products, such as Tableau http://www.tableausoftware gain traction. Also PowerPivot will be enhanced considerably – apparently at WPC one of the Product Managers was demonstrating this working with a 2 billion row record set!

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