Microsoft launched its new Office software, featuring constantly updated, online access to documents from a range of devices as the world's largest software company attempts to tailor its most profitable product to a mobile generation. The new Office suite of applications - including desktop staples Outlook email, Excel charts, Word and PowerPoint - marks the first overhaul since 2010 and aims to beat back growing competition from Google's free online apps.
"The notion of an always up-to-date streaming version of Office comes directly from how people are using devices today," said Kurt DelBene, head of Microsoft's Office unit, in a phone interview. "You really want all your content to roam with you. We see that as an opportunity to deliver what customers are asking for." The consumer-focused version of the new software, called Office 365 Home Premium was launched. After downloading the basic programs online, users can access the latest versions of all Office applications from up to five devices on a subscription basis for $100 a year.
The software will be updated online, marking a change from the past where users had to wait years for upgrades to installed software. The new Office largely adopts the look of last year's Windows 8, with a cleaner, more modern-looking design and includes touch-screen capability.
The 'ribbons' showing commands in Word and Excel are mostly unchanged. For the first time the package includes online calling and video service Skype, which Microsoft bought in 2011.
Users' work can be stored in remote data centers - known as 'the cloud' - and the latest version of a document accessed from any licensed device with a browser that the user wants to work on.