Microsoft has announced the system requirements for Office 2010.
That's news in and of itself. Once upon a time, system requirements (at least, ones that anyone paid attention to) were strictly for high-end professional software, cutting-edge games and the like: software that actually needed powerful hardware. But the real news here is that Office 2010 requires a DirectX-compatible graphics card.
Now, I don't think Word is going to be offloading word counts to a GPU anytime soon. But Microsoft's announcement is making waves nontheless -- and I think it's actually great. It means we've reached a point where our computing history is so mature that even our mass-market word processors have achieved a level of sophistication that we need to make sure of their compatibility. That's exciting!
Certainly, Excel is an obvious candidate for hardware acceleration, which, besides accelerating simple tasks like opening large files and parallel tasks like running many equations, could finally bring true vector operations to the versatile software.
But there is bad news. I'll let Microsoft break it to you:
If your computer has a GPU, it lets us perform graphics rendering tasks (like drawing charts in Excel, or transitions in PowerPoint) in the GPU instead of in the CPU, which parallelizes work and speeds up performance. This is particularly relevant for users of PowerPoint 2010, which will introduce some awesome new graphics and video integration features (more info at the PowerPoint team blog).
Yes, the true motivation behind the graphics upgrade is supercharging those awful 3D pie charts we know and despise.
(If you click the PowerPoint link, you'll notice that Powerpoint 2010 looks a lot like Keynote. Just sayin'.)