Microsoft has started showing select customers the next version of its flagship productivity suite, code-named Office 15.
The company said on Monday that the Office 15 technical preview was being shared under non-disclosure agreements, with the customers testing early builds and giving Microsoft feedback on their experiences.
"At this early point in our development cycle, I'm not able to share too much about Office 15, but I can tell you Office 15 is the most ambitious undertaking yet for the Office Division," Microsoft Office development chief PJ Hough said in a blog post. "With Office 15, for the first time ever, we will simultaneously update our cloud services, servers, and mobile and PC clients for Office, Office 365, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project, and Visio."
Hough's announcement coincided with Microsoft's publication of the SharePoint 15 technical preview managed object model software development kit (SDK), for those on the technical preview programme.
Office 15 is still something of a mystery, as very little information has been released so far.
Screenshots from a leaked build last May suggested it would use the Metro styling that began on Windows Phone and is now making its way into Windows 8 and even the Xbox platform. It may also have its own app store, as a job listing in 2010 suggested.
One of the biggest changes in Office 15 will be the fact that, along with Windows 8, it will need to run on ARM-based tablets as well as the more traditional x86 PC platform. It remains to be seen how different the ARM and x86 variants of the suite will be, but touch-friendliness will have to be a much bigger factor in the upcoming release of Office than ever before.
According to Hough's post, the Office 15 technical preview programme is fully-subscribed, but a public beta will come out "later this summer", at which point Microsoft will reveal more about the new suite.