Office 2013 and the Art of the Announcement

Microsoft took its show on the road to California again, this time San Francisco instead of Los Angeles like the Surface announcement. Steve Ballmer got up in front of the media to talk about how their strategy is coming together and specifically to announce the public betas of Office 2013. While I will talk a bit about the technology, I want to mostly talk in this post about how Microsoft has setup both the Surface and Office 2013 announcements as they want to take a page from the great showmanship of Apple in these announcements.

First, let's talk about the product. Microsoft Office is the leading productivity package used by people around the world. First starting as just Word back in 1983, Microsoft expanded on Word with the purchase of Forethought in 1987; adding PowerPoint to their productivity software selection. The first complete package of Office as we know it today was released in 1995 as Office 95. It was followed closely with an upgrade in 1997 aptly called Office 97, code-named "Ren and Stimpy". The year of release name followed along in further releases such as Office 2000, 2003, 2007, and 2010. The only exception to this naming convention was Office XP released in 2001 to co-inside with the launch of Windows XP.[1]  What we see out of Microsoft today is a three year production cycle for Office, which is something that enterprise users can create a cadence with in either 3 or 6 year cycles.

With Office 2013, Microsoft is trying to simplify the user interface along with the ribbon. Changes include moving towards the "Metro" stylized ribbon through capitalizing the names, making the UI elements flatter, and simplifying looks and feel. The biggest irony for me is installing Office Professional Plus on my EP121 tablet running Windows 8 Release Preview as only had OneNote 2010 and Lync 2010 installed on here before. I use OneNote heavily and I love the new interface on the Desktop version in Windows 8. Hearing in the announcement that OneNote and Lync had Windows 8 Metro Experiences (aka MX) available, I went looking for them but did not see them anywhere. Thanks to Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet and All About Microsoft, these two apps will be available in the Windows Store shortly. But, even bigger thanks to fellow Krewe member Aubrey, I could install the Office 365 preview version of Office 2013 and get them installed now. Tempting for sure, but I will stay with this install and wait for the versions in the store. More information on the Office 2013 release is available from Win Super Site and All About Microsoft.

Now, here comes my complaints about the Apple-like showmanship with Surface and this announcement. First, I am an IT Manager and I have a day job. I blog because I like to write but it is not my job. My heart goes out to many that are journalists and I do not claim to know what they do. Having had drinks with a few and getting to know them, I do have some understanding of what they go through. Having said that and seen Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley at MS TechEd in Orlando in June and watching Mary Jo Foley's coverage of the MS Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto in July, why did Microsoft have separate events for these announcements? Much of the media that covers Microsoft was already at both events. Why make them setup last minute travel to sites that aren’t even standard spots for Microsoft?

Let's do a quick comparison between Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft has a large development conference called Build and they announced Windows 8 at it. Apple has their World-Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco each June and announce their new iOS or even Mac OS. Microsoft has its TechEd conference in June as well, a perfect time to make some announcements about certain technologies like Exchange, SharePoint, Lync but hold that until an Office announcement. Okay, I understand that and wanting to keep the message together. But then the next obvious place to announce is the WPC. Who best to announce this with as your "rabid audience" than partners looking to sell these solutions? But no, Microsoft does not take advantage of this "home turf". In fact, they do two separate events with little preparation forcing the tech media to jump if they want to cover it. This sounds so much like Apple and how they do their announcements through the year away from WWDC.

I like that Microsoft is jumping out and getting into the spotlight. I like that they are being mysterious and capable of it. The Microsoft I worked at was so full of holes, information leaked out like a sieve. The Surface announcement was a great notion but left me with so many questions. Why have it in LA and not Seattle? Why did you do an announcement of that type at a last minute event instead of using something like TechEd? Since you did not let the media be hands on, why not show it off at TechEd. Then, the media would not be the only ones in the room at the announcement. Surface would have gotten a huge standing ovation at TechEd with possible Seattle Sounder like chanting in the keynote. You leave many a TechEd fan and attendee crushed seeing this important announcement and not giving your most important user base no chance to look at the next step for Microsoft.

With the Office announcement, Microsoft did it again. They have a chance to announce something big at their major annual partner event but pass again. They have a chance to announce it on their home turf and make the tech press come to them, but pass on that again going to them in the Bay Area. What does this say? This smacks of letting the tech press say that the center of the tech world is San Francisco and the Silicon Valley. If you want to release something, you must come to us. With the size of both these messages and the baseline of support, Microsoft should either keep these announcements on their home turf or in front of their home crowd. That is what you learn from Apple in this case; Apple has its announcements in front of its developers. Use your home crowd for your announcements Microsoft and don't be scared to invite media to your events.

What do you think of Office 2013? What do you think of Microsoft's announcements and styles? Should they have kept them separate from the events or brought the announcements to their planned events? Leave a comment below.



1 – Office history courtesy of