Microsoft unveils next version of Office

microsoft office 2016
Microsoft's next version of Office will come in two forms: Office universal apps and Office 2016.

Microsoft has given a sneak peak at its next version of Office, and it's touch-tastic.

Office has long been the realm of traditional keyboard and mouse PC users. But Microsoft (MSFT) wants Office to be a part of phone and tablet customers' lives as well.

Over the past year and a half, Microsoft released Office for the iPad and Android. Later this year, Microsoft said it will release a host of touch-based Office apps for Windows 10 users.

The "Office universal apps" will work across Windows 10 phones, tablets, touchscreen laptops and giant screens, such as the new 84-inch Surface Hub that Microsoft introduced earlier this week. To get people using the apps, Microsoft said the new Office apps will be pre-installed for free on phones and small tablets that run Windows 10. Office apps are already free for Android and iOS users.

"You won't even miss your keyboard and mouse," Microsoft said in a blog post.

The new Office universal apps mostly look like the original. For instance, they all have the familiar ribbon at the top with the "Home," "Insert" and "View" tabs. But they also come with touch-specific features, including a special "read mode" in Word and swipe gestures in Outlook that let you delete or flag emails.

It's part of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's new strategy to transition the company into the "productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world." As PC sales slide, Microsoft wants to ensure its software is still getting used.

But Microsoft understands that a lot of people still want to use Office the old-fashioned way. For them, Microsoft will release a new version of Office called Office 2016 in the second half of the year.

Office has become the biggest cash cow over the past year for Microsoft, even eclipsing Windows sales. Microsoft's Office 365 subscription plan is catching on in a big way, with 6 million consumer subscribers as of October. And Office for mobile devices have received millions of downloads.

Microsoft Windows 10 in 90 seconds
Microsoft Windows 10 in 90 seconds

Related: Microsoft makes Office free on mobile

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