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Microsoft's Office chief hints at new apps for subscribers, details the transition to touch

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Microsoft Office 2013 logo stock
Microsoft Office 2013 logo stock

Microsoft's Office 365 Home Premium subscription service debuted recently, and Microsoft is aiming to update it rapidly. Speaking at Microsoft's TechForum event this week, Microsoft's Office president, Kurt DelBene, says the company is "very excited" about how the subscription switch is going so far, but that it's early days to measure its success. DelBene believes the Office team will "move towards a rapid cadence" of updates for its subscription customers. "You can even imagine new applications coming out for the subscription," he hinted, while the company manages a balanced world of subscription vs. perpetual licenses.

Office isn't moving fully to subscription though. Users can still opt to buy standalone versions and DelBene doesn't see that changing until customers demand it. "We'll continue to do a perpetual version of the product, like Office 2013, as long as that demand exists." The mix will allow businesses who opt for the subscription versions of Office to let Microsoft handle the updates, while big corporations can continue managing standalone software.

Microsoft working on transition to a Windows 8-style Office

On the subject of touch versions of Office, DelBene pointed towards the existing OneNote Windows 8-style app, but he also outlined how Microsoft is looking at the transition to full Windows 8-style versions of Office. "I think certainly the transition of the applications to the new environment, the WinRT environment, will allow us to rethink the applications and we have the benefit of the desktop applications still being present." This transition allows Microsoft to be "forward thinking" and consider "the first sets of features" that will be available "as we move Word, Excel, PowerPoint, to the Windows RT environment," claims DelBene. "What is the experience for that when I know I've got the full applications on the desktop as well?"

The hints suggest that Microsoft is looking at scenarios that bridge the gap between full desktop Office applications and Windows 8-style ones. While we won't see a full Windows 8-style version of Office initially, Microsoft is clearly prioritising the first round of features. The real test will be how Microsoft manages menus in a touch scenario. OneNote does a good job with radial elements, and DelBene says he thinks "touch will continue to get better" in the future. "We also think other NUI experiences like voice, like video will come on strong as well."