Microsoft on Monday is expected to unveil new software features crafted to jazz up Office 15, the next major upgrade of its ubiquitous suite of office-productivity programs.

sMuch is at stake. The software giant's core engine of profit selling licenses for Windows computing systems packaged with the Office suite that includes Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint is under intense pressure as competitors roll out products aimed at taking away market share.

Office 15 is expected to be available early next year, bristling with hooks into Windows 8, the latest upgrade of its operating system software, which will be generally available this October. Some 84% of the world's personal computers run on Microsoft's Windows. But many of Microsoft's corporate customers still use an earlier version of the operating system, Windows XP. And those on the current version, Windows 7 out since 2009 and paired with Office 2010 could stand pat and opt not to upgrade.

"Skipping a version or two saves costs, and often, the new features are not critical to them," says Jack Gold, industry analyst at technology consulting firm J. Gold Associates. "It's critical for Microsoft to show real benefits to upgrading."

What's more, Google is pushing hard to get Office users to switch to Google Docs, an Office-like applications suite running on Google's servers and accessible on the Internet. And Apple is championing the notion of performing clerical duties on the iPad tablet PC. Neither Office nor Google Docs works on the iPad.

USA Today