Where are Microsoft's next versions of Office for Windows and Mac?

Microsoft execs dropped a few clues and hints this week regarding the company's planned timing for the next versions of Office client and servers for Windows.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

It's not just the whereabouts of Microsoft Office for iPad that generates never-ending no comments from Microsoft officials. Microsoft execs also have been keeping mum on when the company plans to field its next on-premises/local versions of Office client and Office servers for Windows systems, as well as Office for Mac.


This week, Microsoft officials did drop a couple of clues that lead me to believe that Office 16, as the next version of Office for Windows clients/servers is codenamed, may arrive before the end of 2014.

In an Office Blogs post on February 17, Office Corporate Vice President Jeffrey Teper spelled out Microsoft's planned Office timeframe in broad-brush terms. "We will continue with our on-premises releases of both SharePoint Server and Exchange Server on our traditional 2-3 year release cadence," Teper said. Given that Given that Microsoft RTM'd SharePoint 2013 and Exchange 2013 on October 12, 2012, that would mean the follow-on versions should be out some time October 2014 to October 2015.

I'm thinking Microsoft is hoping to get Office 16 out toward the beginning of that one-year window. 

One clue: Microsoft Lync execs told me that Microsoft plans to get the Lync-Skype video federation into the next version of Lync Server. They also told me that the release to manufacturing (RTM) of that functionality is approximately six to eight months away, which would put it some time between August and October this year. That said, it's worth noting that Lync may not arrive at the same time as the Office server family, as Lync sits with Skype, not the rest of Office, in the Microsoft org these days.

Another hint: The Microsoft Exchange team announced on February 19 that the company is seeking particpants for its private Technology Adoption Program (TAP) test program for the next version of Exchange Server on-premises.

With Office 15, Microsoft began accepting TAP participants (for SharePoint 2013) in late January 2012. The company ended up fielding the one and only public beta of Office 15 in July 2012 and RTM'd the client and servers in October 2012. If Microsoft follows a similar pace with Office 16, I'd guess we'll see TAP testers named in the next few weeks; a public beta by summer; and RTM this fall. Again -- it's worth noting there are no guarantees that Microsoft won't go faster or slower in developing this next version of Office.

The Office team has a lot going on. Not only is the team working on Office for the iPad -- which I've heard from my sources may be launched before the end of June 2014 -- but it's also building Office 2013 Service Pack 1 (due in "early" 2014); the aforementioned Office 16 client and server apps; and "Gemini," which are the touch-first, Metro-Style/Windows Store versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. It's building some brand new Office apps, like the coming Office Reader and 'Remix' digital storytelling apps. And it's continuing to evolve Office Mobile for Windows Phone, iPhones and Android phones.

The Office team also just rebranded Office Web Apps as Office Online and is continuing to try to add more of the features that are part of "regular"/on-premises versions of these apps to the free, Web-based complements. The team also is adding features on a near-monthly basis to Office 365 and on a regular, though less rapid pace, to Office 365 Home Premium.

There's also expected to be a new version of Office for the Mac in the pipeline, given the last one was Office 2011 for Mac, released in October 2010. Microsoft officials aren't providing any specific guidance as to features/timing for the next Office for Mac beyond the following statement from a spokesperson:

"The team is hard at work on the next version of Office for Mac. There are no details to share on timing, but when it’s available, Office 365 subscribers will automatically get the next Office for Mac at no additional cost.”

As part of Office 365 Home Premium, Microsoft currently enables users to install Office for Windows or Office for Mac on up to a total of five PCs and/or Macs.

Microsoft RTM'd Office 2011 for Mac in September 2010, five months after Office 2010 for Windows RTM'd. If Microsoft were to follow the same path/cadence for the coming version of Office for Mac, one would expect that product to be set to RTM in March/April 2014. However, there have been no reports of any kind of test versions (public or private) for Office next for Mac so far -- and with Office 2011, test versions were circulating five-plus months ahead of RTM.

Anyone have any guesses (educated or otherwise) when we'll start hearing about the next on-premises versions of Office for Windows, Windows Server and  the Mac?


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