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:
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.
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.
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.
– 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.