NOTE: This FAQ is now retired. Please refer to my newer and more up-to-date Office 2010 FAQ for more up-to-date information about this release.
The truth is out there--sort of. While there are literally no firm details about Office 14--the version of Office that will succeed Office 2007 in about two years--Microsoft has finally begun discussing the roadmap for this release and the general direction it is heading. Presumably, we'll see more Ribbon-ized applications and a more customizable Ribbon all around, but we'll have to wait and see. No, it's not much yet, but here's what we know about Office 14.
Credit where credit is due: Stephen Chapman at Aero Experience was the first to discover and publish information about Office 14.
Q: What is Office 14?
A: Office 14 is the next version of Office 2007 (or what Microsoft calls the 2007 Microsoft Office System).
Q: What does the 14 signify?
A: 14 is the version number. Office 2007 was called Office 12 internally at Microsoft. The company skipped 13 for superstitious reasons.
Q: Is Office 14 the final name?
A: No, Office 14 is a codename only.
Q: When will Office 14 ship?
A: Microsoft plans to release Office 14 in the first half of 2009, about two years after the consumer launch of Office 2007.
Q: What about the beta?
A: Microsoft plans to ship Office 14 Beta 1 in the first half of 2008 and Office 14 Beta 2 in the second half of 2008.
Q: What applications/features/enhancements will Office 14 include?
A: No-one outside of Microsoft knows (yet) and to be fair, the feature-set for Office 14 is still being worked out.
Q: So what do we know about Office 14? Anything?
A: At this point, Microsoft is only talking in very broad strokes. (This is in sharp contrast to the situation with Office 2007, where I was able to discover a much deeper range of features about two years before that product shipped: See my showcase previewing Office 2007 for details.
Anyway, here are the current focus points for Office 14 at this point in time. This data comes from a Microsoft presentation, and I've reworded them to make them more readable and understandable in some places.
1. Individual Impact
Objective: Continued focus on individual productivity and effectiveness
Microsoft will continue to invest in providing tools for individuals to be productive and effective. The company will be working to make individuals more self-sufficient by enabling them to perform more sophisticated tasks themselves and providing more self and community-based help options. Office 14 will include improved search relevancy and refinement of the result-oriented database.
2. Communication and Collaboration
Objective: Enable better communication and more efficient information sharing to keep communities, co-workers, partners and customers in sync
Microsoft will continue to invest in team effectiveness and will be expanding this to include further unification of communications and the ability to work easily with partners and customers. There will be deeper Unified Communications integration with Office 14, including capabilities that make communications and collaboration more convenient to the user (regardless of device or connectivity) and manageable by IT (through unified identity and robust policy/compliance support).
3. Enterprise Content Management
Objective: Author, Manage and Organize Complex Documents and Content
Microsoft will expand what it provided in Office 2007 for document management to allow better management of complex documents and content. The company will be making sure it keeps the overhead of document management to a minimum and that it is simple for end users to participate in document management processes. Office 14 will include a flexible storage solution for Digital Asset Management.
4. Business Process and Business Intelligence
Objective: Make the right information available throughout the business processes
Microsoft will make it easy to find, analyze and use the expertise and data hidden within an organization and its business systems to make better informed decisions personally and within a team, while continuing to work within a business process or workflow. Office 14 will bring business intelligence (BI) to business processes, instead of having BI as an isolated and as-needed activity.
5. Office Business Platform
Objective: Make it simple to build client & web-based business applications
For corporate developers, Microsoft will deliver a platform on which they can easily build and deliver rich solutions that incorporate workflow, business system integration and Office client familiarity. Office 14 will include Declarative Programming advances and improved Business Data Catalog (BDC) integration.
6. Manageability and Security
Objective: Make it easy to deploy and manage around the globe
Microsoft has made great strides in the last few years on the security, reliability, and deployment of Office, and will continue to invest in these fundamentals. Microsoft will also continue to make global deployments easier with federated, offline and virtualized models. Office 14 will further improve offline experience in products such as SharePoint and assist global deployments via federated and virtualized deployments.
Q: When will Microsoft start working on Office 14?
A: As always, Microsoft works on the next two versions of major products like Office simultaneously. Since Office 2007 has been completed, the emphasis has switched now to Office 14. According to the company, it will spend 20 percent more on research and development for Office 14 than it did for Office 2007, or about $930 million each during development.