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Microsoft Software

Ballmer Hints At 'Metro-ization' of Office 302

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-making-up-words dept.
CWmike writes "Microsoft's CEO strongly hinted this week that the company will craft a Metro-style version of the next Office suite. 'You ought to expect that we are rethinking and working hard on what it would mean to do Office Metro style,' Ballmer told a Wall Street analyst. Metro, a tile- and touch-based interface borrowed from Windows Phone 7, would be a massive change for Office, one that would dwarf the 'ribbonization' that set off a firestorm of complaints about Office 2007's new look. The criticism died down, and Microsoft later extended the ribbon in Office 2010 and Windows 7. It will ribbonize other components of Windows 8, notably the OS's file manager. One analyst believes Metro Office is a done deal. 'I think they need something in Metro to enable people to work on documents on tablets,' said Rob Helm, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. 'They need something on ARM.'"
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Ballmer Hints At 'Metro-ization' of Office

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  • There's a patch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ttong (2459466) on Friday September 16, 2011 @06:23PM (#37424948)
    Luckily, there is a patch and you can download it here [libreoffice.org]. (It's not really a library, btw.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 16, 2011 @06:26PM (#37424962)

    According to whom? On what evidence?

    Metro is a pile of shite, the 'designers' are idiots who are simply trying to justify their positions, by ruining everybody's user experience.

    • by jwegman (228147)

      Exactly! I still loath and the ribbon and always will. It is an abomination of a UI element.

      And Metro is even worse!

      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by plover (150551) *

        Two things. First, you personally are not their target market for UIs. If you don't like the ribbon, it doesn't matter because they won't change it.

        Second, all the slamming of the ribbon is really tired tempest-in-a-teapot stuff. Find a more meaningful problem to worry about.. Right now, you sound pretty whiny because you can't get over something so trivial. Four years ago there was an insignificant change to a product with no more than a five year lifespan. Let it go.

        In the grand scheme of life, do you rea

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          jwegman might not be the target market, but I sure am, as an employee in a Fortune Global 500 company with an IT department so conservative that we finally migrated company laptops/desktops to Vista and Office 2007 last year. That is not a typo. We migrated to Vista after 7 came out. This was allegedly because certain intranet applications were not certified to work with Windows 7, but anyway.

          I am still not as productive in Office 2007 as I was with previous versions of Office, and neither is everyone el

          • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

            I am still not as productive in Office 2007 as I was with previous versions of Office

            If something that minor was all it took to make you "not as productive" you should start thinking about how you're going to live on the measly amount that unemployment insurance pays because you are not worth wasting a W-2 form.

      • A Metro office will probably just have the ribbon, but BIGGER! They probably sat around thinking "How can we infuriate Office users this year? We already doubled the amount of space the UI takes up while exposing them to less features..." and then some bright spark goes "Let's double it agaiiiinnnn! :D"

        Don't get me wrong, I'm all for tidying up interfaces, and the ribbon is a good try; but that's as high as my praise will go. It's a try, not a success. It's a designer's attempt at trying to figure out w

    • by grapeape (137008) <mpope7@kc . r r . c om> on Friday September 16, 2011 @09:52PM (#37426334) Homepage

      No kidding...with my clients I had exactly 1 that is using office 2010, all of the others actually went backwards to office 2003 after the ribbon stuff gave secretaries fits. I had one spend nearly 10 grand only to go back to the old version about 6 months later, they just couldnt adjust macros were broken, templates had issues, it was a mess.

  • 'I think they need something in Metro to enable people to work on documents on tablets,' said Rob Helm, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. 'They need something on ARM.'"

    Sure, but that doesn't mean that there will be no more desktop version of office. These will be two different office suites that can inter-operate: Traditional desktop Office, and Metro Office. Since it sounds like tablets will only be able to run the Metro-style apps, this is inevitable, and not a big deal.
  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday September 16, 2011 @06:29PM (#37424986)
    Is queer eye for the straight guy still on? I honestly thought this was going to be an article about Ballmer bringing the queer eye team to Redmond and having them do some work on Microsoft's headquarters...
  • I'll hand it to Ballmer for not beating a dead horse and try to wedge Office into a form factor that worked okay but didn't get critical mass (Windows tablets). Now he's going to wedge it using a new UI that probably won't work on ARM tablets. He's clearly moved on to beating dead mules. ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 16, 2011 @06:36PM (#37425048)

    This is one of those really dumb ideas that I hope catches on. Like... well... I can't think of another example.

    The reason why it's dumb should be obvious: they're trying to port a program with an input that's 99% keystrokes over to a device that has no keyboard.

    The reason why I hope it catches on is that it might encourage tablet hardware designers to start seriously considering adding some kind of hardware keyboard to their devices. No, the on-screen keyboard doesn't count. I have a touchscreen netbook and I still claim it's superior to tablets in almost every respect, but its weaknesses (shorter battery life, bulkier than a tablet, takes too long to power up) keep me from just keeping it in my pocket and using it whenever I have a spare 5 minutes.

    Between the addition of a keyboard and a some of the tablet designers finally getting it through their heads that the only way to beat Apple is on price, I might just break down and buy a tablet.

    • by zero0ne (1309517)

      brain implant :)

    • by DCFusor (1763438) on Friday September 16, 2011 @09:07PM (#37426106) Homepage
      Ha! Yeah, all this talk about the PC is dead, tablets, phones etc being the way is just telling me that the larger bulk of the market create NOTHING USEFUL in the world, other than to hand money to corps for toys. Content creation, whether it be writing code or English -- stories or screenplays -- intelligent posts, economic analyses - you name it, if it's valuable transformation of raw data into useful information, it went through a real keyboard, or it just plain takes way too long to get done.
      .

      Mobility seems cool to some people, but I don't really move around that much, and frankly find all these people pretending to be productive on their mobile devices are really just using them as excuses for impoliteness to those physically present around them. I'm perfectly happy to sit here, maintain my forums, trade stocks, write articles for publication on a good old fashioned box PC (well, yeah, it has displays that would shame the matrix, and 512 cuda cores along with an i7, so not that plain or that old fashione). I RUIN keyboards at no longer than 6 months intervals, typing way way over 120 wpm if I'm excited, and looking at this one (about 4 months) no numbers/letters on the keys, yet some big dips where my nails have actually eaten away the plastic. I will never, ever, be happy with a little texty keyboard, a touch screen one, or even my fairly nice laptop, which I do no creative work on whatever - it's too hard to type fast on that tiny thing (made for midgets?) and you're always accidentally clicking it's little smear-screen "mouse" when it's least handy. To hell with that. Just gimme a regular box.

      Now that I'm (wisely, I think) back to zero mobile devices, when I do go out, my time is my own - I don't even know the onstar phone numbers for my cars and would never give them out if I did. Why is it that anyone who has your phone number is alright assuming you want to talk to them whenever THEY feel like it? Send me an email, I'll call you when *I* feel like it. Or see you F/F if possible - quality over quantity of mindless babble. These "mobile productivity enhancing devices" are an epic fail for actually getting anything done other than *talking* about getting something done. /rant

      I won't mind seeing the end of that brain dead bloated office suite. Haven't used it for years anyway. When I wrote my digital signal processing book, the publisher requested I NOT use junk like that -- just get the content right, we have people to make it pretty as we like - and we don't like having to deal with the junk most authors think makes their work better looking (in error). So, being a windows guy then, I used notepad(!). Of course, for the last decade, I don't run windows anymore anyway, sucks hard compared to linux. If I need it for some reason, there's virtual box...windows in a sandboxed window is about right for that piece of utter crap.

    • Use a bluetooth keyboard. Or just don't get a tablet if you really want a keyboard. I have both a netbook and a tablet, and though there is a lot of overlap, the tablet is great for reading, web browsing and youtube videos. It sucks for Slashdot though - the latest JavaScript stuff in Slashcode is really slowing things down..

    • by pavon (30274)

      The target use case for something like this is CXOs tweaking their Powerpoint presentations while on the plane, or proof reading and correcting reports while on the subway. No, you wouldn't want to make the whole thing on the tablet, but being able to make minor changes on the go is a useful feature.

    • The reason why I hope it catches on is that it might encourage tablet hardware designers to start seriously considering adding some kind of hardware keyboard to their devices.

      The device that you want [asus.com] has been on the market for several months now.

      Now we only need to get software that can properly use it. Honeycomb itself actually supports trackpad (and USB/bluetooth mice) and displays a mouse pointer that you can move around and interact using it. They've also updated their APIs to provide more fine-grained mouse events - hover, for example, distinct buttons, and so on. The stock OS itself is also somewhat keyboard-aware in that you can do Ctrl+X/C/V in text fields, tab between c

    • by gweihir (88907)

      Best comment so far! This really captures it.

      To me, MS is not so desperate to be different that they has started not only to screw it up by incompetence, but intentionally. There is some method to their madness. After all, if you look at what Office (and Windows) users routinely put up with and, judging by the fanboy comments here, actually believe works well, MS can make it a lot worse before people start to realize what an abomination this stuff really is. This is utterly evil of course.

      I just hope they o

  • "Developers!" when he said it?

    Sorry, someone had to risk the OT karma hit.
  • So the interface is sooooooo Metro-sexsual, darling
    • by formfeed (703859)
      That was my first thought as well. The colors will all be tone in tone. But just how do you get a Kashmir scarf onto an office suit?
    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Metro this, Metro that. Am I the only one fucking tired of hearing about Metro?

      Thanks to Microsoft, the next person who says metro, in any form (including metrosexual or metropolis) is going to be filing an assault charge on me...

      • by MrKaos (858439)

        Metro this, Metro that. Am I the only one fucking tired of hearing about Metro?

        Thanks to Microsoft, the next person who says metro, in any form (including metrosexual or metropolis) is going to be filing an assault charge on me...

        You sound like a metronome, duude!

  • by gstrickler (920733) on Friday September 16, 2011 @06:42PM (#37425118)

    I remember a feeling coming over me
    I was hoping you might change your mind
    I remember hating you for changing things
    Riding on the Metro

    with apologies to Berlin

  • ...was going to be boring at some point. Apparently that point is now.

    On the bright side something good may come out of this "dumb-down-the-product" approach made popular (and commercially perfected) by Apple. It worked great for them so since MS is trying to re-invent themselves, why not follow the same paradigm.

    On the other hand, the pro users (a slight super set of the little crowd here at /.) think that the old one worked just fine, why mess with it, rightly so

    I think noone is really wrong or rig
    • by Microlith (54737)

      It worked great for them so since MS is trying to re-invent themselves, why not follow the same paradigm.

      Indeed. And they get to follow Apple's lead in getting users the world over to accept DRM'd hardware and walled gardens. They can convince users that mobile devices need to be meticulously managed by the OS vendor, and allowing you access of any kind below the shiny, barred exterior is bad and will lead only to bad things.

      This is something Microsoft has dreamed of for years. Apple beat them to the punch

  • Kudos (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Friday September 16, 2011 @06:55PM (#37425208) Homepage

    After Ribbons, it has become extremely difficult to think up ways to make MS Office worse. Continuing to do so shows an unbelievable level of commitment and effort.

  • by zoffdino (848658) on Friday September 16, 2011 @07:08PM (#37425320)
    Does Microsoft understand that different form-factor requires different GUI design? They try to shove the one-size-fit-all approach to all the devices that they design, that's why they fail so hard. You can't take a PC interface, with mouse and keyboard, and copy it directly over to a tablet, where an icon is too small to be touched precisely by a stylus. You can't do serious document editing or spreadsheet on a phone / tablet so design those apps with a "good enough" feature set and let go. You can't copy a panel-based interface to a keyboard and mouse environment. Apple knows how to do those things: they have a scroller for the phone, a pop up for the tablet, and a plain old drop down for the computer. They make them "consistent" but far from identical, cause your interaction with them are different.
  • Tablets are more amenable to handwriting than desktops, and less to typing than desktops.

    Can they bring back handwriting?

    Will it be more efficient for input?

    Can conversion to typed text be made error-free?

    And what of hybrid concepts like Swype?

    • by cbhacking (979169)

      Windows has supported handwriting recognition for years, and still does in Win8 (assuming you have a digitizer that can recognize a stylus). Whether Word will support handwriting recognition within a doc directly, I don't know. OneNote already does, though.

  • Stacks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MikShapi (681808)

    So here's the thing. Big tech is all about the verticals nowadays. Here's my future.

    Apple showed us how it's done - having the CPU, the iDevice, the OS, developing carrier relations, an app store, a lot of apps and a developer community, and now a cross-device cloud service. Apple makes most of its money from the devices by the way.

    Google's not letting down. After Eric Shmidt and Larry Page had their disagreement on whether Google should be fleshing out its own stack or consolidating around its "core busine

    • Re:Stacks (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Un pobre guey (593801) on Friday September 16, 2011 @07:39PM (#37425556) Homepage
      Apple can do this in a blink by the way. They have a powerful desktop OS they can just integrate straight into their mobile stack. They're already laying out the groundwork in fact - notice how you can show your iPad screen on an external display wirelessly? Notice how the "PC" was demoted below the cloud? Or how iDevices no longer require a PC tether? Think how useful it'll be when your iPhone is running real desktop stuff in an app. And driving an external 30'' display and keyboard wirelessly.

      Interesting scenario, but it is more likely that the phone will be a slave rather than a master. People lose phones and they get stolen, and there will always be terrifying pressure to extend battery life. It is more likely that everyone will have a a compute appliance [slashdot.org] of ever increasing horsepower somewhere in the relatively secure perimeter of their home or office to which their growing horde of devices are wirelessly connected, at least when their are nearby. More and more horsepower and storage, and damn the wattage. Many people do things like play games, create and edit digital content, and other things that continue to soak up compute cycles without any foreseeable limit. Google isn't stupid or shortsighted. I suspect they and Apple have a very good idea of what role phones will play over the next 20 years or so.

      Microsoft, however (those dedicated stock price masturbators), are almost certainly clueless. If anyone is going to screw it up and forcibly, tenaciously extract failure from the jaws of success, it will be them.
      • Damn, where are mod points when you need them? Insightful comment indeed, and I agree with everything you said, particularly about a home compute appliance to which your mobile devices connect. And it's interesting you should say that Apple and Google have given the future of mobile much thought. Remember it was Jobs who coined the term "Digital Hub", and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see it unspool very much like your prediction. I personally envision something along the lines of a Mac mini/Time Capsul
      • by MikShapi (681808)

        The slave and master analogy is a bit misleading because it lumps document storage and processing together and creates this false dichotomy of dumb powerless nodes vs thick clients. Reality just doesn't look like that anymore.

        The phone will have processing (needed for an acceptable snappy UI, and because we need some form of CPU to drive it and even the cheapest/smallest ones are plenty powerful and growing by the day), will have local storage for OS and cloud-cached local storage (needed because the device

      • Interesting scenario, but it is more likely that the phone will be a slave rather than a master. People lose phones and they get stolen, and there will always be terrifying pressure to extend battery life.

        Extending the battery life is easy - you just stuff dock with extra batteries which drive the system when phone is plugged in. Asus Transformer already does it with a tablet - dock it, and it gets twice as much battery life.

        As for lost/stolen phones - by which I think you imply losing data - that wouldn't be a big deal in the "cloud" world where everything's automatically backuped to said cloud anyway.

        It is more likely that everyone will have a a compute appliance [slashdot.org] of ever increasing horsepower somewhere in the relatively secure perimeter of their home or office to which their growing horde of devices are wirelessly connected, at least when their are nearby.

        It's essentially what we have today with home WiFi. Problem is, it breaks down once you go outside the hous

    • by Kjella (173770)

      There's some good points here, but the current productivity apps are almost all written for x86. It'll take a huge effort from Microsoft to convince all of them to make an ARM version for applications that 99% would like to use at a "real" desktop with monitor and keyboard. And it'll take even longer before the people who've already bought and paid for their software to buy those versions. I think you'll still have an ARM tablet and a x86 cpu for running desktop software for a looong time to come.

      I think mo

      • by MikShapi (681808)

        Some points here -
        1. A VERY substantial part of the productivity apps are made by microsoft. If they can compile Windows for ARM, they sure as hell can do so with Office, Project, Visio and what not. And once they move, well, vendors will too. Remember what happened when they turned UAC on by default on home PCs? Initially some chaos ensued, the vendors that were doing stuff outside your filesystem userspace miserably broke, and MS had to herd them all to step back in line, because Hey, grandma's computer n

  • Why people not only continue to use MS Office but are willing to pay 200 bucks or so for it is beyond me.
  • Microsoft is pushing Metro as their new UI, and (possibly, it sounds like Microsoft hasn't even decided) their only ARM SDK. Of course they have an Office port in the works. Otherwise, Office would be unsellable.

    • by jamrock (863246) on Friday September 16, 2011 @08:57PM (#37426054)
      As you said, of course Microsoft is working on a Metro version of Office. They'd be crazy not to be. Office is Microsoft's cash cow, the castle that all their other ventures serve to protect, and it's probably the number one reason why people continue to use Windows. They, and everyone else (including Apple), were caught flatfooted by the runaway train that is the iPad, and I'm willing to bet that its incredible success sent deep chills through the executive suites in Redmond, when they realized that an entire vast new market was developing and they didn't even have a toehold in it. People want tablets (the argument over whether they want "tablets" or iPads can wait for another day), and Microsoft is faced with a twofold challenge: to have a viable tablet OS; and to develop a version of Office that can run on it.

      Forgive me for not recalling the source, but I read a piece sometime last year about the severe political infighting inside Microsoft, and as an example the writer gave an anecdote about internal discussions concerning the creation of a touchscreen version of Office. The discussions came to an abrupt screeching halt when the head of the Office division at the time flatly refused to have anything to do with it. Try to imagine anyone at Apple telling Jobs that.

      The article painted a portrait of a deeply dysfunctional company, riven by rivalries among the various divisions, and of Ballmer's part in the creation of a nightmarish corporate culture where backstabbing and naked ambition rule. One gets the distinct impression that Microsoft under Gates was like the former Yugoslavia under Tito, with only a strong personality holding together a loose confederation of rivals. With Gates's departure (Tito's death in the case of Yugoslavia), all the bitter divisions came bubbling to the surface, and not only was Ballmer incapable of controlling it, he seemed to actively encourage it in order to weaken potential rivals, similar to Milosevic's misrule in Serbia. Now it's biting Microsoft in the ass, as they find themselves culturally ill-equipped to respond quickly to an external threat.

      As I said, they're faced with a twofold challenge, to succeed with a touchscreen device, and to have a version of Office that can run on it. Each by itself is an extremely difficult proposition. Success at both may prove to be an insurmountable problem.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wonderful! Microsoft saved lots of people a good wad of cash when they pushed the awful ribbon onto everyone's neck - more than a quarter of the people I know now use either OpenOffice or LibreOffice thanks to that clusterfuck. And I expect that ratio will increase as it becomes more mainstream.

    • Don't be so self-righteous - I have no doubts that Ubuntu folk are going to integrate LibreOffice with Unity in no time at all.

    • by westlake (615356)

      more than a quarter of the people I know now use either OpenOffice or LibreOffice thanks to that clusterfuck. And I expect that ratio will increase as it becomes more mainstream.

      It is always a quarter of the people you know.

      But six of the top twenty-five software bestsellers at Amazon.com for the PC and the Mac are current versions of MS Office, retail boxed.

      That is an enormous vote of confidence in The Ribbon.

  • by SexyKellyOsbourne (606860) on Friday September 16, 2011 @11:27PM (#37426712) Journal

    Metro is absolute garbage on a desktop with a mouse. That being said, it's also no worse than anything done on iPhones, Android, or Windows Phones. But it should be only for touch-screens, preferably smartphones. Just as long as they KEEP IT THERE.

    Only marketing would ever want Office to be run in Metro. But the Windows 8 devs on msdn, if you read their blogs, are very in-tune with things. Whatever culture that was spawned after the Halloween-documents in 1998 (yes, 13 years ago) is very much active there, and they're neither close-minded nor stupid. They hate things like IE6 and love jQuery as much as anyone here would. Not surprising, considering MSFT have hired a lot of smart OSS-minded people in the past decade.

    My guess is that they're only trying to vet unifying the interface part of Windows 8 as hard as they can currently. Despite the new DX9-level graphics requirements, Win8 is otherwise seriously fast enough to be run on modern smartphones. If you stripped out that crap, it'd be faster than Win7, probably faster than XP.

    And since ribbons were brought up, Office 2007's ribbons sucked, just like Vista did. Office 2010's actually worked and is what it should have been. Digging through tons of 1980s-Macintosh style menus in Office2k3 or OOO to do things like data bars or text-to-columns a spreadsheet plain sucks. Tabbing through common tasks is far nicer. Four tabs and nothing's buried in Win8 explorer.

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