Microsoft is going full steam ahead on what amounts to a massive flip of its user interface, at the centre of which is the move towards Windows 8 and the interface that was known as Metro. It’s Metro no more — or at least Microsoft is asking developers not to use the word Metro due apparently to a pending legal dispute over the Metro trademark — but it’s still a big shift for many users. Microsoft’s very committed to this idea, though, in a way that it hasn’t always been willing to change over its most recent history. How can I tell it’s serious this time? It’s not only remaking Office, its other cash cow franchise aside from Windows into an interface-formerly-known-as-Metro friendly, but it’s also offering access to Office 2013 for absolutely nothing.
Yep, that’s right. The office suite that used to cost you hundreds of dollars can be yours for the low, low price of absolutely no money at all. Sort of. You’ll still have to pay for the download, have 3.5GB of space, and it’ll only work on Windows 7 or Windows 8 machines, for a start. It’s also only a trial version, so it’s not yours forever. You’ll need a Windows ID as well, but if you’ve ever had a hotmail account you’ve got one of those. Hotmail too is seeing a don’t-call-it-Metro lick of paint as well, transforming into Outlook.com.
New interface aside, the other big things that Microsoft’s keen to promote with Office 2013 are the touch-capable features — which makes sense, given that the Windows 8 operating system that accompanies Office 2013 includes Tablet options — and saving to the cloud, or at least Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud service. That’s the default for saving any kind of document; if you want to save a “local” copy, you’ve got to specifically request to do so.
Microsoft’s not offering Office up for free just out of the kindness of its heart; indeed as a big business it’s not entirely conclusive that Microsoft has a heart to speak of. Allowing users early access to Office 2013 not only helps Microsoft iron out any bugs that might be present, but also gets you used to using the suite before its full commercial release, further cementing Office’s status as the de facto standard. If you’ve ploughed countless hours into creating Office 2013 documents, you’re much less likely to then decide to switch suites, especially if your data is handily tied into Microsoft’s own cloud solutions.