Office_2013.jpg Last week I was invited to a press event in San Francisco, where Steve Ballmer was going to share some exciting news. I of course thought for sure it would be the release of the next wave of Office products and as I arrived at the event, my suspicions were confirmed as I was greeted with a sign that proclaimed “Welcome to your Modern Office.”

It wasn’t long before the attendees were registered and ushered through several set ups that included a living room, kitchen and classroom on our way to the theater. With music booming and internet connections dragging we all eagerly awaited to hear the details.

Intuitive Office: Focused on the Customer

Steve Ballmer arrived on the stage and began to talk to us about the next generation of Office. This isn’t just a release he proclaimed, but instead a whole new generation of Office with a whole new goal in mind -- making the user productive no matter where, when or on what device. As I sat listening to Steve I first thought to myself that this all seems like some great marketing hype, but then as I watched the demos, only one thought came to my mind and that was “That is so easy I could teach my mom!”

Now I know some of you may have mothers that are technical, but mine isn’t, she simply needs the computer to do what she needs it to do when she needs it to be done. The beauty of the demos presented was that the Office products were fine tuned to assist the user on the task at hand in a way that was natural and easy to understand.

Unlike other events that I have attended, this launch was focused on the consumer. Customer examples included a Student from Baylor, a Cub Scout Mom who also doubled as the President of the PTA and then Steve Ballmer. Each of the customers provided comments on how the new Office is changing how they work by providing them common tools that can be used to increase efficiency and productivity. Using OneNote to keep a grocery list or using a Bing News application to add references to a document created in Word. These are all common, everyday tasks for the consumer that are now made easier because of the enhancements made to this release of Office.

Cloud Storage Leading the Change

As we dug deeper into the demos, the glue that seemed to be holding all things together was the combination of the new Windows 8 platform and the use of SkyDrive. Users who were running Windows 8 and were storing their docs on SkyDrive were able to easily move from platform to platform with little thought or effort.

This is the part of the presentation that really got me thinking. The investments that have been made by Microsoft are great, but so will the investments required by users. To take full advantage of these changes, the users will have to embrace change. Things are different in this generation of Office and in order to fully utilize it we will need to accept the changes and adapt our current working mindsets and approaches. The added tools for efficiency are there, but we need to position ourselves to take full advantage of them. Microsoft has finally caught up on many of the things we have been asking for and now it is up to us to embrace the change.

At this time the demos were finished and we were released to grab lunch and pick up our copies of a Windows 8 tablet that would allow us to have some hands on time with the new generation of Office. This surprise was a very welcome one as every rushed to the pickup line. The tablet is a Samsung Series 7 tablet running Windows 8 and the new Office. Also for each attendee an Office 365 site had been pre-configured to allow for immediate access to the newest versions of Exchange and SharePoint.

Demands of the Enterprise

Following the rush to get the tablets a second session started that was focused on the changes within the enterprise. This time the presentation wasn’t broadcast live, but that didn’t impact the quality of the content. We began by discussing how important it was for the organization to retain control of the documents and records within the organization's content.