Julia White, general manager for the Office Product Management team, updated the Office Blog on Thursday with news that Office 2016 for the desktop will arrive in the second half of 2015. She didn't add much to the announcement but noted that the team is hard at work on this release and will reveal additional details in the next several months.
"This suite will remain the comprehensive Office experience you're long familiar with, best suited for a PC with keyboard and mouse. We have compelling new experiences coming as part of this Office suite," White wrote.
In addition to the Office 2016 announcement, White's blog also talked about Office for Windows 10, which will provide touch-optimized apps for Word, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook. According to White, these apps will be installed for free on small tablets and phones that are running Windows 10. They will also be made available in the Windows Store for other larger devices.
Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet pointed out in a recent report that it's unknown whether or not these touch-first apps will be free, or if they will require an Office 365 subscription. Currently, the touch-friendly apps for Android and iPad require a subscription to unlock the full set of features.
According to White, those using the Windows 10 Technical Preview will see these "universal" apps in the next several weeks. The apps will then be made available to Windows 10 users "later this year." White promised that the apps are built from the ground up for Windows 10 and will work well on any size screen, from mobile phones to Microsoft's just-revealed Surface Hub.
"As 'universal' Office apps, they truly are the same app across device size, providing a consistent way for independent software vendors and developers to extend and integrate with Office apps," White wrote.
The blog provided links to two demos showcasing Office for Windows 10 including Word for Windows 10 and PowerPoint for Windows 10 on Windows Phone. The blog also briefly talked about each Windows 10 app, such as the new Insights for Office feature in Word for Windows 10's "Read" mode. White even indicated that users won't even miss their mouse and keyboard when using Excel for Windows 10.
2015 should be an exciting year for Microsoft with the introduction of Windows 10, Office for Windows 10 and Office 2016 for Desktop. After taking a beating from Windows 8 feedback, there's a certain vibe emanating from Microsoft that indicates the company so wants to "wow" customers with these upcoming products. The Windows Insider program should be evidence enough that Microsoft wants to build the best consumer experience possible.