FAQ: Microsoft previews Office 2013, suite sub plans

How to get the sneak peek, who can run it, why it's big news

Monday, Microsoft unwrapped the next edition of its Office money maker at a press event and simultaneously launched a public preview for users to try out now.

CEO Steve Ballmer touted the new software as "the most ambitious release of Office that we've ever done," then ceded the stage to others who demonstrated some of the suite's features and functionality. And while there were questions left on the table -- when will it be released and how much will it cost being most prominent -- it's clear this isn't your dad's Office: For one thing, Microsoft's breaking with a 21-year tradition in how it will sell its next productivity collection.

Let's cut to the chase, though: What you want is to do is try it out, right?

How do you get the Customer Preview? What do you need to run it? What's the most important news?

We have answers to the out-of-the-gate questions.

What's Microsoft calling the new suite? Good question. The answer: Pick a name.

During Monday's roll-out, Microsoft referred to it as "the new Office" without sticking a numerical label on it. But "Office 2013" will be used as the nameplate for the traditional shrink-wrapped product that provides a perpetual license for one upfront fee. And then there's the whole Office 365 thing....

Call us a tad confused by the scattershot branding.

How do I get it? Start here, the download portal for what Microsoft's calling "Customer Preview" -- note its continued refusal to use the term "beta," which it also eschewed for Windows 8. Pick your poison, enter your Windows account login credentials and you're off.

Can I run it? Yes, as long as you have a PC powered by Windows 7 or the Windows 8 Release Preview, the last in the short series of sneak peeks that Microsoft has offered for the upcoming operating system. (Release Preview debuted May 31, for those watching the calendar.)

If you've one of the 50.3% of PC users working on either the 11-year-old Windows XP or the five-year-old Vista, though, you're out of luck.

The fact that Office 2013 won't run on XP is no shock -- after all, it faces retirement in 21 months, in mid-April 2014, and Microsoft would like nothing better than for XP to just go away, as in yesterday. But the lack of support for Vista was a surprise, at least to us.

I don't need Windows 8 to run the new Office? Nope, although CEO Steve Ballmer on Monday pitched Windows 8 as the "best" platform for the new suite and in a statement claimed that it "will fully light up when paired with Windows 8."

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