Instead of forcing touch-based interactions on consumers with touch-based devices, Office 15 will instead provide a "touch button" that will allow them to turn the feature on and off. This will come in handy for owners with touch-based AIO PCs and LCD monitors who don't particularly like maneuvering through Windows 7/8 and installed programs based solely on touch.
The news follows Microsoft's revelation that the four Office 15 apps installed on Windows on ARM -- Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote -- will be desktop apps instead of squared WinRT-based Metro-style apps (these will come at a later date). Since then, there's been speculation as to how Microsoft would make these work with touch better than their current-generation Office 10 counterparts.
But a source using the Office 15 technical preview, which was released last month, showed ZDNet an actual button within all four apps that will switch between touch and the typical mouse/keyboard combo. Currently the button doesn't function, but the source said its purpose is made perfectly clear (and even says so when highlighting the button).
Backing up ZDNet's source, The Verge also has a batch of Office 15 screenshots, some of which show the exact same "touch button." The report also notes that Office 15 minimizes the ribbon by default and uses a full screen "backstage" menu similar to Office 2010 with navigation controls mounted on the left. The suite can also broadcast documents online via Windows Live by sharing them with others thanks to a feature called "Present Online."
Microsoft is still reportedly on track to release Office 15 client, server and Office 365 versions by late 2012. So far Microsoft hasn't announced its release targets or what it will actually call the product when it goes retail -- Office 2012 or Office 2013?