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.

A Welcome Letter

Apple's Welcome Letter

Although Apple is rather well-publicized as a difficult place to work, it strikes me that this welcome message was likely written by someone fairly low within the hierarchy of the company.

Romantically, I’d like to think that sitting there — apart from the inner-workings, design work, and granular infrastructure of Apple’s products — someone took the time to write something thoughtful about the working world. To project meaning, passion, and importance upon even the most minor piece of company communication. The letter is not lifeless, instead, it boasts the very “fingerprints” it seeks to describe. The letter — in its simplistic diction and plain background — embodies all that it hopes to instill within the reader.

Therein lies the significance of Apple and, indeed, the key to success for many companies across the world. The key does not reside solely in margins and products, but within the most incidental and personal portions of the company’s facade — within the projection of a founder’s passion to the scores of people that steadily begin to grow beneath. In this letter, the worker is not a cog assuming the role any other person might hold, rather, the worker is a person pursuing an intimately personal life goal.

Subtract “Apple” from this document, and replace it with whatever you intend to work on today. And hold yourself to it.

(Via Dan Benjamin)

The Valve Employee Handbook

Following my brief tirade about hierarchical structures in the corporate world, Valve has evidently released their employee handbook for all to read. Although I’ve only had a chance to glance through the book, it’s clearly filled with interesting topics to consider when organizing a team or business.

Narcissism is an enemy to trust and teamwork. Thus, the adoption of an environment built upon the foundation of feeding into such narcissistic tendencies is endlessly flawed.

Valve — as one of the world’s most successful development firms — has comprehensively illustrated that there is an alternative to such a traditional working environment, that work need not be characterized by the petty, controlling interests of the few, but by the collective efforts of intelligent individuals.

The handbook is available as a PDF here.

(Via Business Insider)

Office for iPad Coming in a Matter of Weeks?

The Daily has published a photo of a purportedly near-final build of Microsoft Office for iPad. Following a brief hands on, Matt Hickey writes:

A brief hands-on with a working prototype of the software revealed a number of new things. The app’s user interface is similar to the current OneNote app, but it has hints of Metro, the new design language that can be seen in Windows Phone and in the as-yet-released Windows 8 desktop operating system.

Word, Excel and PowerPoint files can be created and edited locally and online. But it’s unclear if Microsoft will support other Office apps at launch or at all.

Although Microsoft is arriving late to the game, such a move certainly makes sense. Back in December, I wrote an article for The Loop discussing Microsoft as a platform company. I wrote:

Rather than resting on its laurels, Microsoft appears to be taking an uncharacteristically humble path, and is doing what it can to redeem its image and to gain support.

Office strikes me as a rather dull piece of software but the long-term ramifications of iOS implementation are far-reaching. Rather than relying solely upon Windows, Microsoft is smartly broadening its software reach. 

Office is Microsoft's largest source of software income and has a veritable stranglehold on the enterprise market. As more and more businesses invest in iPads, Microsoft assures itself a place in countless offices, regardless of the OS or hardware type.

I don't plan to invest in Office for iPad whenever it arrives, but I certainly know people that would.

(Via MacStories)