Microsofts upcoming Outlook 15 will offer a variety of tweaks to the interface, according to a March 20 posting on Paul Thurrotts Supersite for Windows.
For starters, Outlook 15 will offer native integration of Hotmail, along with social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Another new feature, Peeks, will offer more information about Outlook items without needing to actually open them. Email offers inline replies, and Calendar includes a weather bar.
Its pretty clear that Outlook is being brought in line with Microsofts other email and calendar clients, and with the mobile versions in Windows Phone in particular, Thurrott wrote. The Contacts module has been renamed to the more consistent People, for example, and Outlook now connects natively to new calendar types.
In addition, Microsoft is apparently preparing a new platform called Office Web Apps Server, according to a March 20 posting on Mary Jo Foleys All About Microsoft blog. This server will be able to serve multiple SharePoint farms for viewing and editing documents, she wrote. In addition, a server or farm running Office Web Apps will be able to view files stored across data stores including SharePoint Server and compatible third-party stores such as those from Oracle and IBM FileNet.
Microsofts upcoming suite of updated productivity products, which falls under the umbrella of the code name Office 15, is an ambitious project. The platform has already been distributed to a select group of testers, with a public beta reportedly due this summer; the final release is rumored for late 2012, around the same time that Microsoft releases Windows 8.
On a broad level, Office faces the same challenges as Windows: In a tech world increasingly slated toward mobility, where consumers and businesses complete more and more of their daily tasks on smartphones and tablets, how do you evolve software originally built for traditional PCs with massive hard drives?
Microsofts answer is apparently a broad-based refresh for everything from cloud services to mobile and PC clients for Office, Office 365 (the cloud-based version of Office), Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project and Visio. Moreover, it is reportedly working on a touch-optimized version of Office for Windows 8, the better to take advantage of the upcoming operating systems optimization for touch screens.
As detailed by Thurrott, Outlook 15 is evidently part of this broader revamp.