Right after Microsoft confirmed Windows Blue, unnamed sources came forth and said the Redmond company is using a similar distribution method with Office called "Gemini." It will be a wave of new releases spanning the next two years, the first of which will be aligned with the first rollout of Microsoft's Windows Blue incremental distribution plan.
According to the sources, this first wave is slated to arrive this fall and include updates to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. There's speculation that these will be the full Modern UI-based versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and an update to the OneNote Modern UI app already available in Windows Store.
Like the Windows team, the Office team is shifting over to an annual update delivery system rather than waiting three years to release a new product. On the Windows 8 front, customers will likely be required to purchase the update at a low cost for a limited time. Office 2013 owners will likely need to do the same while updates are already built in to the Office 365 subscription model.
The difference with the Office team is that it must focus on several platforms spanning Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows RT and Mac. Let's not forget the Office Web Apps, and ports of Office apps such as Lync for iOS and Android. Instead of a team focused on a single platform, it’s a team focused on a business that sells apps. That's no small task.
But if the first Gemini wave only consists of releasing Modern UI versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, there may be nothing Office 2013 owners need to purchase -- these apps are likely "on the house." As ZDNet points out, Microsoft originally wanted to build a Modern UI version of Office 2013, but discovered this to be more challenging than originally planned. The Modern Office Experience (MOX) team supposedly focused on the OneNote app first, along with the common components for the other Office apps.
Sources claim that the heart of Microsoft second Gemini wave will be the Office 365 subscription model. New features and updates to Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online are already on a quarterly update schedule as it is, and the Office 365 Home Premium updates are supposedly just as frequent. That said, what the second wave will bring is unknown at this point.
"Our customers have already experienced the ongoing rhythm of updates and innovations over the past six months including new devices, new apps and services, better performance and new capabilities," said Microsoft corporate VP Frank Shaw in a blog on Tuesday. "This continuous development cycle is the new normal across Microsoft – we'll tune everyday experiences as well as introduce bold, connected and exciting new scenarios. Our product groups are also taking a unified planning approach so people get what they want – all of their devices, apps and services working together wherever they are and for whatever they are doing."
If anything, the first Gemini wave indicates that Microsoft may be smoothing out the differences between Office 2013 for Windows and Windows RT. That could mean a Modern UI version of Outlook may be in the works, or that the desktop Office apps can share content using Windows 8's Charms. Even more, it sounds like the first Gemini wave will wash up alongside the initial Windows 8 Blue launch, which will supposedly allow multiple Modern UI apps to take up equal amounts of space on the same screen.