Office 16 is one of the ongoing projects at Microsoft, and recent reports have indicated that the company is planning some pretty big changes for the next version of its productivity suite, including the return of Clippy.
Not much is known about this particular project right now, but it appears that Microsoft has started sending out invites to beta testers who want to try out the new Office 16, suggesting that the upcoming version of the software will be released not only on Windows (for desktops, tablets, and laptops), but also on smartphones running Windows Phone.
At this point, all Windows Phone devices ship with a free version of Office, but Microsoft is working to make the upcoming release available on smartphones as well, in another attempt to give its devices a fair advantage in the fight against competing phones.
There are no details available right now, but recent reports have indicated that Microsoft is also working to merge its mobile platforms, so a single Office SKU for these builds could make sense.
Sources from within the company have said that Microsoft is working to merge Windows Phone with Windows RT into a single operating system that would power both smartphones and ARM tablets.
What’s more, some unconfirmed rumors that reached the web before the unveiling of Windows 10 indicated that Microsoft was considering a rebranding strategy that would rename Windows Phone to just Windows, in a clear effort to capitalize on the popularity of the desktop OS version.
If we put together all pieces of the puzzle, it appears that Microsoft is working to merge Windows RT with Windows Phone, call it just Windows, and release a new Office 16 version for these devices that would be specifically optimized for the touch.
Such a scenario aligns with previous rumors that Microsoft was working on a touch-optimized version of Office, with the company itself confirming at BUILD earlier this year that its productivity suite would also get more touch-optimized features.
Even though no other details have been provided until now, we have heard that Office Touch should launch before the end of the year.
Office 16, on the other hand, is expected to be here by mid-2015, with the official launch very likely to take place around the debut of Windows 10, which in its turn is scheduled for spring next year.
As you can see, there are lots of vague details right now, so we’re still expecting Microsoft to break the news on the future of its productivity suite.