Microsoft unveiled a new version of its Office suite tailored for tablets and other touchscreen devices. The revamped Office takes advantage of cloud computing and is designed for use with the upcoming Windows 8 operating system.
It makes use of cloud computing by storing documents and settings on the Internet by default, and is compatible with touch screens widely used in tablets. It also incorporates Skype.
Microsoft has a lot riding on the 15th version of Office. Windows is one of the world’s biggest computing platforms, and the Office applications — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other tools — are used by more than 1 billion people around the world.
The company last updated Office in 2010, when it incorporated online versions for the first time. The full version of Office 15 is expected to be available in early 2013.
Cloud computing refers to a growing trend toward providing software, storage and other services from remote data centers over the Web instead of relying on software or data installed on individual PCs.
Documents in the sleeker-looking Office can be marked up by writing on a touch screen with a stylus. The suite will be compatible with tablets that use Windows 8 — due for release in October.
Screens appear less cluttered with icons and menus than in current Office applications.
Microsoft did not say whether it planned to launch versions of Office compatible with Apple’s iPad or tablets running Google’s Android platform.
The software package is now integrated with Skype, the voice-over-IP service that lets users collaborate on documents through video conferences.
While past versions of Office saved documents on PCs’ hard drives, the new Office uses Microsoft’s online ” Skydrive” service for default storage. Documents can be shared on Facebook or published as blogs.