Microsoft Outlook 15 Being Revamped For Social World

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Microsoft is reportedly revamping its Outlook calendar and integrating social networking and Hotmail into the email manager

Microsoft’s upcoming Outlook, which falls under the umbrella of the “Office 15”codename, will offer a variety of tweaks to the interface, according to a posting on Paul Thurrott’s Supersite for Windows.

For starters, Outlook 15 will offer native integration of Hotmail, along with social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Another new feature, Peeks, will offer more information about Outlook items without needing to actually open them. Email offers inline replies, and Calendar includes a weather bar.

Contacts become People

“It’s pretty clear that Outlook is being brought in line with Microsoft’s other email and calendar clients, and with the mobile versions in Windows Phone in particular,” Thurrott wrote. “The Contacts module has been renamed to the more consistent People, for example, and Outlook now connects natively to new calendar types.”

In addition, Microsoft is apparently preparing a new platform called Office Web Apps Server, according to Mary Jo Foley’s All About Microsoft blog. “This server will be able to serve multiple SharePoint farms for viewing and editing documents,” she wrote. “In addition, a server or farm running Office Web Apps will be able to view files stored across data stores” including SharePoint Server and compatible third-party stores such as those from Oracle and IBM FileNet.

Microsoft’s Office 15 suite of updated productivity products is an ambitious project. The platform has already been distributed to a select group of testers, with a public beta reportedly due this summer; the final release is rumoured for late 2012, around the same time that Microsoft releases Windows 8.

On a broad level, Office faces the same challenges as Windows: In a tech world increasingly slated toward mobility, where consumers and businesses complete more and more of their daily tasks on smartphones and tablets, how do you evolve software originally built for traditional PCs with massive hard drives?

Microsoft’s answer is apparently a broad-based refresh for everything from cloud services to mobile and PC clients for Office, Office 365 (the cloud-based version of Office), Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project and Visio. Moreover, it is reportedly working on a touch-optimised version of Office for Windows 8, the better to take advantage of the upcoming operating system’s optimisation for touch screens.

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