Microsoft has sent out invitations to a press event on Monday in San Francisco, and it looks like Office 15 could be the star of the show.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, will host the event, whereat the computing giant (Microsoft, not Ballmer) is expected to reveal the missing link in the Windows 8 and Surface chain.

Office 15 has been in private beta since January 2012, although non-disclosure agreements have kept most information about the "ambitious" upcoming software suite scarce.

On and Office

Paul Thurrott, however, managed to post some screenshots and first-impressions of the product, and the rebuilt software looks to be following Windows 8's lead.

Only Desktop interfaces have been revealed for the product (Metro is likely to have it's own, separate interface, particularly for tablets like the Microsoft Surface), and they look to borrow heavily from the bright, clean presentation seen in Windows 8.

Looking at what scant hints are now publicly available for the design and functionality of Office 15, it's a good bet that online integration will play a key role in the new software.

In addition to bundling in Microsoft Lync (an instant messaging client), other programs like Word and Excel will be integrated with cloud services like SkyDrive, My Office, and Facebook. Always-on connectivity is undoubtedly a huge focus for Microsoft going forward, and Office 15 will reflect that philosophy.

Compatibility may yet be an issue for Office 15, as support for Windows XP is coming to a close in two short years, and Vista's not far behind that. Windows 7 and 8 support are almost definite.

Though the product is still just in a private beta, a public beta is expected to hit the 'net sometime this summer.

The announcement on Monday will likely publish the final word on beta access and give consumers an excellent glimpse at the fairly one-note outlook of Microsoft's cloud-linked software project.

Via PC World, Paul Thurrott