Microsoft Likely to Release Office 2016 Later This Year

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2015-01-25 Print this article Print
Office 2016

When I asked a Microsoft spokesperson what the company has planned, all she would say was, "There will be great new experiences, which will add to the full Office suite you’ve already been familiar with."

I'm not sure that enterprise users are ready for great new experiences as much as they might be ready for features that add to stability, ease of use or ease of customization.

Another question may well be which parts of Office are being heavily modified. Considering that a significant number of Office users spend their day with Outlook constantly open, there's probably room for better visualizations or easier modification.

There are, of course, already some major changes coming for OneNote, some of which were demonstrated during the Windows 10 announcement on Jan. 21.

These changes include the ability to use OneNote as an electronic whiteboard, which can then save and distribute copies to meeting participants. This was demonstrated on the new Microsoft Surface Hub, which is a wall-sized PC with an 84-inch screen, where the electronic whiteboard was effective and, quite frankly, pretty cool.

But in reality, the heavy lifting in Microsoft Office for most users is Word and Outlook. These applications need to perform at least as well as they do already, and they need to be easier and more effective than they are with Office 2013 for people to bother to upgrade.

This speaks to the likelihood that Microsoft intends to release yet another stand-alone desktop version of Office 2016. After all, if the company was just planning to introduce a new release of Office 365, the upgrades would be automatically available in the cloud. But with a new stand-alone version, Microsoft has to convince customers to order it.

Perhaps the fact that Microsoft is planning to release a series of Office Universal Apps for smartphones and tablets might provide some additional insight. To be useful as Office moves into the next stage of its product lifecycle, the ability to closely integrate with the phone and tablet apps would be extremely useful and something that you can't really do with Office 2013.

Right now, though, it's still early. I asked Microsoft whether there will be a preview version of Office available for IT departments to evaluate before the general availability of the product, but the company spokesperson wasn't able to confirm whether this would happen. Fortunately, some beta testing is under way, so at least some information is beginning to filter out.

In the past, Microsoft has provided detailed information to IT departments so that managers could plan for the transition. Considering the value of the enterprise market to Microsoft, it seems likely that corporate users will be able to get something to work with. We'll let you know as soon as we find out anything useful.



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