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Here comes the new Office: Microsoft melds applications to present data in flexible, shareable ways

Mark Hachman | Nov. 12, 2014
On Monday, Microsoft reiterated its push toward enabling productivity for personal and business life alike. But the real news is a new crop of apps that mash up different elements of Microsoft's existing products.

sway from one drive

Delve, Sway, Revolve: For those who don't follow Microsoft's products closely, the words might sound like instructions for a nerdy line dance. But like the mashup generation they're written for, the three new apps take elements of Microsoft's productivity generation and blend them together.

The mantra of productivity is months old by this point. Microsoft's former chief executive, Steve Ballmer, began proclaiming it, and it's been a rallying cry for Satya Nadella, too. Frank Shaw, the company's chief spokesman, reiterated the message in a blog post Monday, pointing out that Microsoft has adapted as its users' work habits have begun changing, too: Desktop and mobile are blurring, and apps need to be proactive, not just reactive.

A look ahead at what Microsoft is now beginning to ship, versus what it has brought into the market over the past year, shows you how the Office suite is evolving into something very, very different:

Delve: in September, Microsoft said Delve will be rolled into Office 365 by January. Delve accumulates information from Lync, SharePoint, and Yammer, pulling together a snapshot of the documents you need to interact more effectively with your teams of coworkers.

 "With Delve, information finds you versus you having to find information," Julia White, the general manager of Office, wrote at the time--one of the points that Shaw, and Microsoft, have tried to make about Microsoft's new product portfolio.

Sway: This lightweight content creation platform, which combines elements of PowerPoint and Word, is currently in preview mode. In keeping with Microsoft's newfound belief in openness, the company is soliciting feedback from customers and users on how it should evolve. I found it intriguing, and I could see it supplanting the more formal Word for school reports.

Revolve: Fast Company's Harry McCracken says Microsoft showed off Revolve at a private event last week at Microsoft's Redmond headquarters. He describes it as "an upcoming app for Windows phones which melds aspects of a calendar and contact manager, and presents you with information about people you're going to meet with that it's collected from multiple sources."

Office for a new generation

For years, Office has been built upon three pillars: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Workers and consumers wrote letters and reports, compiled spreadsheets evaluating their financial performance, and presented the results to their coworkers and clients. OneNote now fits in as a sort of digital rough draft to organize data in preparation for more formal presentations through the other applications. And to me, that reflects the years when financial conferences meant wearing a suit and listening to some aged executive explain the company's financial performance.


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