Once again, the tech world is abuzz with speculation about the possibility of Microsoft Office for the iPad — and once again, the situation is as clear as mud.
A member of Microsoft’s team in the Czech Republic made headlines today by telling a news site, and by extension the world, that native versions of Office 2013 for iOS and Android would be coming in March of next year.
This was clearly a surprise in Redmond. At first, the company put out a statement saying, “As we shared previously, Office Mobile will work across Windows Phones, Android phones and iOS, and we have nothing additional to announce today about retail availability of the new Office.”
Then, a follow-up statement said, “The information shared by our Czech Republic subsidiary is not accurate. We have nothing further to share.”
What’s going on here? First, the definition of “Office” is inherently squishy. Are we talking Word, Excel and PowerPoint or something else? Technically, Office is already on iOS and Android in the form of the company’s OneNote application. And the browser-based Office Web Apps work across devices, by definition. So the company’s statement about making Office work across mobile platforms doesn’t mean a whole lot.
But in a bigger sense, Microsoft would be crazy to come out with any type of official news about native Office apps for tablets other than Windows 8 devices right now. The company is two weeks away from the Windows 8 launch, and Office will be key selling points for new Windows 8 tablets.
The real question is whether Microsoft will offer full-fledged, native versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint for tablets that compete with Windows. As we’ve said in the past, the company’s approach in this area will be a litmus test for the modern Microsoft.
My hunch, based on what I’ve witnessed reporting on the company over the years, is that we’ll see native versions of the core Office apps for iPad and Android next year, but they will be significantly less than full-featured, giving Office on Windows tablets the edge.
Previously on GeekWire: First look: Microsoft remakes Office for tablets and the cloud