updated 06:41 pm EDT, Tue June 12, 2012
Productivity suite update gets a "Metro" look
Earlier this week at Microsoft TechEd 2012, a Microsoft on-screen demonstration let slip a few screens from the forthcoming version of Office 2013 meant for Windows RT devices. The screens, picked up by Within Windows, show the company's newest version of its Excel spreadsheet program, which appears to have undergone a user interface makeover bringing it more in line with the "Metro" UI that forms the basis of Windows 8.
The Windows RT version appears to do away with much of the bulkier UI common to current versions of Office. Instead, Office 2013 features a menu bar, with common commands nested in the top of the window. The right side of the window in the screenshot appears to feature a user picture, as well as a smiley face. The purpose for these features is unclear.
The UI changes are likely due to the nature of the devices Windows RT is intended to run on. The new operating system is meant for ultrabooks and tablets -- the latter of which, while possessing its own unique input advantages, lacks some of the input capabilities of a traditional computing platform. As such, Office 2013 on WinRT appears to feature clearer icons and larger buttons in some aspects of its interface.
Bringing its productivity suite to a tablet interface has proven something of a challenge for Microsoft. Earlier this year, reports emerged that the software giant was behind schedule on Office 2013, and that the software might miss the Windows 8 launch this fall. More recently, a product roadmap leaked, showing that Office 2013 might be released in early 2013. That roadmap, though, was an older document, and may not accurately reflect the company's current launch plans.