Microsoft Office 13 makes productivity social

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When it comes to the computer age the jewel in Microsoft's crown is productivity, specifically Office. Now in the latest iteration of the widely deployed set of tools the company is embracing collaboration and social media, confirming the enterprise impact of new ways of working at this phase of the connected age.

There's three big take-aways:

office in the cloud

All the features of the new package can be accessed via SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud storage service -- these tools are all being made available via Office 365. Also interesting is the company's stated intend to ensure the tools are available for use by people on a PC, tablet or smartphone.

There's even been some talk the company intends abandoning its "Windows First" approach by making the Office 365 service compatible with iPads and other non-Microsoft devices.

collaboration

It's all about collaboration, both internally within business units and externally with clients and key stakeholders. Inclusion of support for Skype within the suite confirms this. In theory this will mean that Skype becomes the de facto telecommunications solution for many cash-strapped business users.

There are already in excess of five billion Office users worldwide - if they all upgrade then video, voice or text-based chat between those five billion users will be as simple as firing up your Microsoft software. This may potentially transform mobile communication, separating voice calls from fixed and mobile lines and translating them to the network.

productivity gets social

Collaboration within business units is a key driver for the enterprise. With this iteration of Office Microsoft confirms the need for a unified approach to this, integrating services such as Yammer. It also includes Microsoft's unified communications service, Lync and OneNote for taking notes during meetings.

Inclusion of recently acquired Yammer technology within Office is a fairly big deal. It gives the social software a huge potential user base, and will offer enterprise users built-in social tools with which to manage and expand their professional relationships, collaborate on documents, and get into voice and video conversations (as will inclusion of Skype).

If you aren't familiar with Yammer it's a private social network aimed at the enterprise.

rapid evolution

The impact is being felt beyond Yammer. Another start-up, Teamly, recently confirmed an early investment from an early Yammer investor as well as deeper integration with Microsoft's new service. Teamly makes tools to help workers prioritise different tasks. It also helps managers track and review their employees.

Another recent effect has been a decision on part of NewsGator to integrate its SharePoint application with Yammer. That's an interesting move as SharePoint also integrates with other popular social networks, such as Twitter, Dynamics CRM and Salesforce Chatter.

Of course, most of us have already used Google Apps for various kinds of collaboration. Some may even have worked within the Apple ecosystem and tried to make sense of iCloud.

Beyond this there's a huge range of enterprise-focused solutions for collaboration, social networking, document creation, unified communication and more.

While Microsoft has made a major move in Office 13 to underline the importance of this sector, the next challenge for CIO's already committed to alternative platforms will be making the disparate systems work together well. We'll take a look at that problem as it relates to social networking services within a future post.

Jonny

crédit photo : © olly - Fotolia.com

Jon Evans

Jon Evans is highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men’s interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.