- Associated Press - Monday, July 16, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Microsoft unveiled a new version of its widely used, lucrative suite of word processing, spreadsheet and email programs, one designed specifically with tablet computers and Internet-based storage in mind.

Like an upcoming redesign of Microsoft’s Windows operating system, the new Office will respond to touch as well as commands delivered on a computer keyboard or mouse. The addition of touch-based controls will enable Office to extend its franchise into the rapidly growing tablet computer market. Apple dominates that market with the iPad, though Microsoft has plans to compete with its own tablet, called Surface.

Microsoft said the new Office was developed as a service first, meaning it’s designed to run easily on multiple devices connected to the Internet. The programs can store documents online through Microsoft’s SkyDrive service and will remember settings, including where you last left off in a document, as you move locations. The Internet-based services approach is one Google has been promoting with its own suite of similar programs.

“This is the most ambitious release of Office that we have ever done,” CEO Steve Ballmer said in unveiling the new Office in San Francisco.

A preview version of the new Office suite is being made available online at https://office.com/preview.

Microsoft Corp. isn’t saying when it will go on sale or what the price will be. Those details will come in the fall.

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