Microsoft is reportedly on the verge of a major shift in how it delivers operating system releases. Rather than releasing a RTM every three or four years and hoping OEMs have time to get everything tested for launch a few months later, the company will favor frequent, periodic upgrades (e.g. annual releases) for Windows.
The first of such updates is codenamed Blue and could arrive as early June in a public preview.
But Microsoft’s plans apparently go beyond Windows and its related platforms. ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley says the Office unit will follow a similar release cycle as well with a series of updates, codenamed Gemini, over the next two years. The first wave of Office updates will be aligned for release with Blue, possibly by fall 2013, and should cover the core Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote applications.
It’s unclear exactly what the focus of the update will be but Foley ventures to guess it might involve the full Metro-style versions of these applications, which could offer a more streamlined feature set compared to the desktop versions. Currently, Microsoft does offer a version of Office for Windows RT, but besides OneNote and Lync they are essentially the same Office 2013 apps designed to run on the desktop. Microsoft says they are ‘optimized for touch’ but the user interface still feels very crammed with dozens of settings and options.
Moving forward the Office team will continue refocusing on apps and services that run on multiple, heterogeneous platforms, Foley says. We’ve seen some of this with the Mac Office suite, Office Web Apps and Office 365 packages. The latter is rumored to be the focus of a second wave of the Gemini strategy. Once again, exactly what these updates will entail is unclear, but when asked about it company officials noted that the notion of a ‘next version’ is already outdated since they are always improving the cloud-based Office 365.