I cannot express the spark of hope I felt when I opened my feeds this morning and read the headline “How Microsoft Will Revamp Office For Tablets” from Business Insider. Here I thought, even in the wake of the iPad, we would continue to see no concessions made… and I was right.
The screenshots posted by winreview.ru reveal that Microsoft Outlook will gain the ribbon interface in the main window, not just in individual items. The navigation pane gets a makeover with the shortcut buttons moved to a row at the bottom with a Metro-like appearance. Looks quite clean and attractive, but adding the ribbon to the main Outlook window merely unifies the Microsoft Office interface, while the Metro-like buttons are just existing buttons that were redecorated and relocated. While the large buttons on the ribbon make it easier to use on tablets, these changes simply aren’t tablet-specific. Frankly, it’s embarrassing that anyone would think they are.
Now while I am a little ticked at Matt Rosof at Business Insider for suckering me in with false hope, the fact is, he is absolutely correct that revamping Windows is not enough to make Microsoft successful with tablets. Their major applications, particularly Office, must also make the leap (we’ve read from one insider why that didn’t already happen). Unfortunately, these screenshots don’t show that happening.
Perhaps Microsoft will follow Apple’s example with iWork and release tablet-specific versions of Office as separate apps. Perhaps they’ll finally get a clue and incorporate some of the fantastic (and now defunct) third-party add-ons, like Tablet Enhancements for Outlook, into Office (much as I suggested years ago). Or perhaps they’ll just keep trucking down the same avenue and hope for a different outcome than watching Apple own the tablet market. I’m still hoping for one of the former two, but history points to the latter. Oh, the insanity…