Even though Microsoft officials said earlier this year they planned to keep the coming Office Next/Office 2013 deliverables -- the clients, the servers and the services -- in lockstep, it seems some components are arriving earlier than others.
The new release of Office Web Apps will be rolling out to current Office 365 customers near the end of this month, Microsoft officials are confirming. I asked about this after reading a report by Paul Spain of NZ Tech Podcast fame, late last week about the accelerated Office Web Apps timetable.
A note on Microsoft's Office 365 wiki confirmed that the new Office Web Apps are arriving as part of the SharePoint Online Service Update (SU) 4.
“We update Office 365 with new capabilities on quarterly basis and sometimes more frequently. This is part of our regular cadence of updates," said a Microsoft spokesperson when I asked about the new Office Web Apps' imminent arrival.
Microsoft officials still are not revealing publicly when Microsoft plans to release to manufacturing/release to the Web its Office Next/Office 2013 products, which are what was codenamed "Office 15." They have said, however, that the final version of Office Home & Student RT, which will be "included" with Windows RT-based devices, will begin rolling out to customers between early November 2012 and January 2013. They've also said a touch-enabled Lync unified-communications clientsfor Windows 8 and Windows RT will begin rolling out starting in late October 2012.
My sources have been saying for a few months that Microsoft's internal plan is to RTM the next Office releases in November and to officially "launch" and make the products generally available in February 2013.
Microsoft delivered a public beta, a k a the customer preview, of its next-generation Office wares in July 2012. New versions of its Office Web Apps -- the Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote -- were part of that public beta.
The dev team focused on four areas of improvement across the Office Web Apps suite. The four: improved document authoring; better touch support; co-authoring across all four apps (with simultaneous co-authoring enabled except in Excel Web App); and better performance.
Microsoft first introduced Office Web Apps with Office 2010. Office Web Apps are usable in a variety of browsers -- including Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Safari -- on different operating systems and form factors (PCs, tablets, smartphones). Office Web Apps include a subset of the functionality in the full Office versions of each of the apps.
The coming Office Web Apps release, rolling out later this month, drops support for Internet Explorer 7 and Safari 4.x.
In related news, The Verge is reporting that Microsoft is planning to roll out the long-rumored Office for iOS and Office for Android products starting in March 2013. The Verge is citing a MIcrosoft Czech Republic press release and remarks from a Microsoft official there as its source. I have no confirmation on the timing, but am a believer that it's only a matter of time until the Microsoft Office team delivers some kind of versions of Office -- whether they be Web-based, subscription-only and/or local -- for non-Microsoft platforms.
Update: Microsoft Corporate Communications chief Frank Shaw tweeted that the information shared by the Microsoft Czech subsidiary is not accurate. I still believe Office is coming to other non-Microsoft mobile platforms and phones, but perhaps not in the form of a local client and/or starting in March 2013. Shaw said in his tweet Microsoft had nothing more to say at this time.