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Microsoft Office 2016 is an even bigger change than Windows 10

When corporate VP of Office Client apps Kirk Koenigsbauer was invited on stage at the Apple keynote, to introduce Microsoft Office 2016 for iPad Pro, we had to admit, we didn’t see it coming.

Praises of Microsoft being a company that “...knows a lot about productivity...”, were sang by Apple, just before Koenigsbauer walked the stage. Merely presenting a new version of Microsoft’s flagship productivity software, was only the tip of a much bigger iceberg.

Microsoft Office 2016

Microsoft Office 2016 is a completely reinvented product, with features designed to create the type of workflow that most users are accustomed to when working with Google Drive applications, together with advanced editing tools familiar to users of the desktop version of Microsoft Office.

At almost 26 years since the very first inception of Microsoft Office, the productivity suite has been one of the longest running in the history of modern computing, and this new version, at least on the outside, seems to share almost nothing with any of its desktop-bound predecessors, with an interface that unifies both mobile and desktop features.

Microsoft Office 4.0 for Windows 3.1

During the Apple keynote, MS Office 2016 displayed some very interesting capabilities, not only within the realm of being a supporting argument for the iPad Pro, or the Apple Pencil, but for the fact that Microsoft Office is heading full-force, towards a completely cloud-based approach, not only on mobile devices, but also on the desktop. This new reality turns nearly everything we know about Office, and the old Microsoft, on its head.

The introduction of collaborative editing is a concept that Google has pioneered and developed since 2005, when Google acquired web-based document editing app Writely, alongside development of Google’s proprietary Spreadsheets browser-based app.

During the past 10 years, Microsoft went through some radical changes, some of them taken rather slowly, to allow for the vetting of new cloud-based technology.

What’s immediately apparent, is how similar MS Office 2016 is to Google Drive’s productivity apps, not particularly as far as interface elements or user experience, but rather in how closely it resembles a technology that a growing number of users have begun adopting, in place of the former, desktop-bound MS Office suite, and the sharing and collaborative capabilities it brings.

One thing that we noticed is how multiple users are able to edit the same document in real-time, with different color-coding and labels, displaying who is editing which part of the document, as it happens, a feature that Google Drive users are very familiar with.

While this may no longer be a novelty, collaborative editing of documents becomes a whole new experience, with the addition of advanced editing tools well known to Microsoft Office users.

With Apple fully endorsing MS Office 2016 for its own devices, from MacBooks to iPad and iPhone, Microsoft is on track for mass exposure, which could very well pose bigger challenge to Google Drive, than any other cloud-based productivity app so far.

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