Microsoft won't come out with versions of Office for iPad and Android until October of 2014, six months after the release of refreshed editions of Office for Windows Phone and RT tablets, says a leaked report. As some analysts see it, if that's really Microsoft's plan, the strategy could be to give Windows RT a better shot at grabbing a toehold in the tablet market before offering Office for competing devices.
Microsoft will also hold off on a Windows RT version of Outlook until October 2014, according to a purported roadmap for Microsoft's "Gemini," detailed in a post by Mary Jo Foley on ZDNet.
On the other hand, Microsoft will release revamped editions of its Office apps for Windows 8 in October of 2013, and Mac Office 2014 in April of 2014, the roadmap says.
If the blueprint is true, Microsoft clearly aims to give priority with Office to ARM-based Windows RT tablets over Apple's iPad and multivendor Android-enabled tablets.
'Microsoft is About Establishing Its Own Platform First'
"Microsoft is definitely about trying to establish its own platform first," concurred Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, in an interview with TabletPCReview.
"There could be some things going on with Apple in the background that we don't know about, such as [issues with] Office 365 and royalties. But Microsoft believes that the iPad isn't where people should be focusing with Office."
Might a plan like that backfire on Microsoft, though, as iPad and Android tablet users grow increasingly accustomed to using various alternatives to Microsoft Office for creating, editing, and reading MS Office files?
These include Apple's iWork Pages, Numbers, and Keynote apps for the iPad; cloud-enabled MS Office services such as CloudOn; and third-party office suites such as QuickOffice, Docs2Go and Polaris Office.
Miller, however, doesn't think that delaying Office for the iPad and Android tablets would work to Microsoft's detriment.
"Microsoft is very focused on document fidelity, meaning that documents won't get malformed or mangled as they get passed along," he told TabletPCReview.
"If there is an iPad edition of MS Office, we don't know what it would consist of, but it will most likely be simplistic, without the richness or breadth of features that you get on Windows. Microsoft generally wants Windows to be the place where Office shines the most."
Meanwhile, sales of RT tablets have been so bad that some analysts have suggested Microsoft should abandon RT entirely. Last month, Bloomberg reported that Microsoft had only sold 1 million RT-based Surface tablets from October of 2012 through March of this year, in comparison to four million units of its newer Intel-based and Windows 8-enabled Surface Pro in just over a month.
One big problem with RT tablets is simply the apps. RT tablets have no backward compatibility with older Windows applications. Moreover, there's not an extensive selection of apps available for RT, even less so than for Windows 8.
With all of that in mind, "never" might be thought of as a more probable release date than April of 2014 for a refresh of MS Office for RT.
But Miller is convinced that, given the commitment Microsoft has already made to RT, the company isn't about to abandon RT any time soon, if ever -- and certainly not before the end of next year.
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