Tom Warren's Office 2013 Preview

Office 2013

Tom Warren:

The touch experience isn’t great from my own testing on Windows 8 Release Preview, and it feels all too familiar to Windows 7 — a first stab at touch improvements on desktop software. Microsoft’s Office division has taken a similar approach, by increasing touch targets, but it seems that any truly touch-optimized versions of Office will come as Metro style apps, if anything at all. It’s clearly difficult to create a fully functional touch-based word processor or spreadsheet with legacy support, and Microsoft hasn’t cracked it yet. Reading and Touch Mode work well if you just want to look over documents on a tablet device, but editing is a mixed affair — especially when, like other tablet devices, the onscreen keyboard takes up 50 percent of the screen space.

Overall, Office 2013 represents a big leap forward on the cloud side, but if you’re an average Office 2010 home user then there might not be enough here to make you rush out and upgrade.

Beneath each flimsy shred of Microsoftian innovation lies a wealth of controversy and failure. For all of the promise of Windows 8, there remains the distinctly embarrassing touch-centric misappropriation within Windows 7. Similarly, with Windows Phone, there exists Windows Mobile 6.5. Although Microsoft seems close to rectifying many of these quagmires, Office 2013 appears to be a generation behind the curve.

In many respects, Microsoft’s reticence to embrace an entirely Metro-driven interface for Office 2013 reflects the company’s hedging of its bets. Metro — radical as it is — could well prove to be a dramatic failure for Microsoft. Accordingly, by avoiding a complete shift in design, Office 2013 provides a life-preserver for Microsoft’s enterprise business in case of the dire collapse of Windows 8.

At the same time, the sheer lack of confidence displayed by such a blatant element of disconnection serves as a poignant reminder of the Microsoft of old. Rather than pouncing upon its new Metro design paradigm, Microsoft has provided a proverbial moment of stuttering hesitance in the face of its competition. Perhaps such behavior is understandable, but that’s certainly not to say that it’s affable or endearing.