The arrival of a new Microsoft Office edition is met with more scepticism than a speech from a government spin doctor, but – like it or not – version 12 is now on its way to testers.
Comprising the usual motley crew of Access, Excel, InfoPath, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher and Word, 12 promises to be make documents more interoperable between applications and places a greater emphasis on a ‘smart’ graphical interface. The first objective is handled by switching all documents to XML format (you can do this in 2003 actually), while the latter involves ‘dynamically’ changing menus which switch content depending on what you are doing at any one moment.
Another – expected – change will be the widespread incorporation of RSS feeds into all programmes (particularly Outlook) and also a more automated approach to formatting which could prove either a godsend or a complete disaster. Whatever the outcome, however, it is clear Outlook will tie incredibly tightly into Vista and a lot of its higher functionality will require users to be running the next gen OS (surprise, surprise).
Consequently, it shouldn’t be a shock to hear Office 12 will debut alongside Vista towards the end of next year. A lot of water needs to pass under the bridge between now and then though and I’m sure Microsoft is going to need a few extra spin doctors to boost sales before launch. By then I’m sure there will be a whole raft of newly sacked government ministers will be ready to step into the breach…