Reading between the lines: Office on iPad, Windows Phone upgrades

Reading between the lines: Office on iPad, Windows Phone upgrades

Summary: Two Microsoft officials gave some very carefully worded answers to questions about Office on iPad and Windows Phone 'Apollo' compatibility at industry events this week.


I blogged recently about how I attempt to read between the lines of an official Microsoft denial. Today's post is about reading between the lines of a seeming confirmation.

Kurt DelBene, the President of the Microsoft Business Division, home of Office, was asked during his appearance on February 29 at the Morgan Stanley Media & Telecom conference about "the move of Office to iOS." (Note: It wasn't whether Microsoft will do this, but about the move as if it's a done deal. Cleverly worded, questioner.)

Read what DelBene said in response, from the transcript:

"The first thing I would say is, we've actually done a lot of work on iOS up to this point. So, many of you may not be aware of that.  We have built Web versions of our applications (Office Web Apps) ....

"We've been working with Apple on improvement to the Safari browser so that those Web applications work well on an iPad.  And so, we hear from customers, they go to SharePoint, they go to Live, and they bring down the documents, and they want to have that kind of Web experience.

"In terms of how we think about iOS devices, we take a very scenario-based approach generally speaking. So, the first thing that people want on those kinds of devices is mail, calendars and contacts. And that's why you saw us license the Exchange ActiveSync protocol. I mentioned 75 percent of customers use Exchange in enterprises today. We've broadly licensed EAS to cover those scenarios.

The next thing that we're driving towards is note-taking. We did a lot of research. Note-taking is the next thing that people actually do on these mobile devices.  And so we've built OneNote.  I encourage all of you guys to try it, if you haven't, but we have a great experience around OneNote on iOS devices as well.

"Unified communications is the next one. And so we do actually look at it from the perspective of what are the scenarios that people are after. At the end of the day, we do believe that at this point in time, these are mobile devices. And those are the scenarios that we actually focus on, and really drive our attention on."

So DelBene noted that Office Web Apps work with Safari today. Microsoft already announced and delivered iOS versions of its OneNote note-taking program and its Lync unified-communications client. That's all he said.

DelBene didn't deny that Word/Excel/PowerPoint are coming for the iPad. Reporters with The Daily recently said they had seen and had demo'd to them by someone working for Microsoft these three apps -- which they called Office for iPad.

So is DelBene just being coy? Or is he signaling Microsoft's telemetry data indicates that iPad users don't want Word, Excel and PowerPoint and so Microsoft isn't going to make those three apps available on the iPad?

I consider his non-denial as a tacit confirmation.I do admit the way he phrased his answer gave me pause and made me wonder if Microsoft really will deliver these three other Office apps on the iPad. My new doubts aside, I still think Office is, indeed, coming for the iPad in some way, shape or form, in 2012, and DelBene didn't say anything to the contrary.

Next up: Terry Myerson, the Corporate Vice President of Windows Phone, who spoke to the financial analyst community at the Mobile World Congress on February 29.

A participant in that meeting asked Myerson whether there will be forward and backward compatibility between Windows Phone 7.x and Windows Phone 8 (codenamed Apollo). Rather than answer the question that many of us current and potential Windows Phone users really want to know -- will existing Windows Phones be compatible with the Apollo operating system update expected later this year and have it pushed to us -- Myerson side-stepped the issue and reiterated Microsoft's guidance about app compatibility.

From a transcript, here's what Myerson said in response:

"We haven't announced Windows Phone 8, but in terms of I can show you our goal to all Windows Phone 7 applications will run on Windows Phone 8.  Application compatibility is always something, where there's always stuff on the fringe.... The spirit is our goal that all Windows Phone applications today run on our next release."

My sources have claimed that Apollo isn't going to be pushed to existing Windows Phone users -- which may be a carrier decision as much as, if not more than, a Microsoft one. I'm inclined to think Myerson could and would have said current Windows Phones will get the Windows Phone 8 update if that were, indeed, the case, to set to rest rogue rumors and speculation. The fact he didn't say this makes me (sadly, though unsurprisingly) believe those saying Apollo will be available on new phones only could be right.

What do you think? What's your read on DelBene's and Myerson's carefully worded answers to these questions?

Topics: Windows, Telcos, Software, Operating Systems, Mobility, Mobile OS, Microsoft, iPad, Collaboration, Apple


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • CeBIT

    If Microsoft will be talking about Windows 8 for business at CeBIT next week, I believe they'll also talk about Office for iPad and Windows 8.
  • WP and Apollo

    Because Apollo is mostly hardware related, I suspect that WP7.5 devices will get an update that will include any/most of the software related upgrades that come in Apollo, but they won't get Apollo proper.
  • Nobody talks about how you're supposed to generate content...

    ...on a content consumption device.

    Typing documents on a touch-only device? Ugh!

    My take: Except for viewing and small edits, Office on an iPad is largely a mis-application.
    • You lack any type of vision

      So typing up an office document on an iPad and storing it in the cloud for later retrieval in a conference room presentation or on your own desktop is a mis-application?

      You're fired.
      • Silly rabbit

        Or should I say rabid Apple hater? Keyboards abound for the iPad. Bluetooth, dock stations, etc.

        Stop the H8!
        The Danger is Microsoft
      • Stop the H8?

        Dude, your forum name is "The Danger is Microsoft". Why don't you stop hating?
      • Mary Joe Fo ... olish

        Her posts are just focused on irrelevant gossip no one cares about. "I'm convinced this is a tacit admission" . It must suck to have your job, it's useless and exists just for mindless gossip.

        You're fired!
    • Adaption is key to all progress....

      What I find interesting is this article combined with another recent article about Adobe and now Photoshop for the iPad, and combined with many an article/story of the iPads use in the work environment means that content creation is gaining momentum on the iPad.

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
  • Office will happen on iPad

    Microsoft has to do it because by the time Windows 8 tablets come out they will be entering a landscape so dominated by Android and Apple on the tablet market this fall that they have no choice but to bring Office to the iPad and Android (maybe) if they have any hope of securing any type of future in mobile computing.

    Face it Ballmer has blown his third chance at dominating the'd think after his third strike the board would kick his butt out.
    • Won't buy it.

      iWork instead. No Microsoft products for me...ever!
      The Danger is Microsoft
      • Stop the H8

  • Apollo

    Not providing Apollo to the existing phone base will be negatively perceived and could severely damage the installed base.

    Normal consumers (non-geek) will not understand why their 1 year old phones are not eligible to get the latest OS update. Forcing them to change their phone to remain in the ecosystem is a terribly bad idea. Yes, everybody agrees that ther is a normal turnaround cycle for phones, but 1 year is ridiculously too short (I knowingly exclude the original WP release since the installed base was negligible).
    • I disagree

      You mean the same normal consumers that accept the fact that you have to buy the iPhone 4 when you already own an iPhone3? Or the iPad3 when you own the iPad2?

      Or that handset manufacturers generally only support one or two upgrades of the Android OS?

      I agree it sucks (my at-the-time 1 year old Samsung moment was already at an Android upgrade dead end with another year left on my cell carrier contract).

      But I don't agree that the consumers won't understand this. Right or wrong, it's standard behavior among the providers of the technology. They really have no alternative that follows a different pattern (other than a rooted Android.. which a "normal" consumer won't do). You said that everyone agrees about the turn around. That would include the non-geeks. Or that's what would be implied by all the non-geeks lining up in front of the Apple store when they re-sell their slightly upgraded software on new hardware every year.
      • Normal consumers will not care

        They wont even know that there has been an upgrade they will just see the new shiney phones being advertised on TV and count the days until they can buy get a new one on contract.
      • Agreed

  • Not pushing apollo to exisitng WP owners would be a major mistake. A lot of

    people just bought Nokia WP in the last 3 months and a lot more will be buying them shortly when their LTE ones come to the US. Everyone would see it as a "forced upgrade" scenario and the onset of fragmentation at an android scale. There's no reason apollo couldnt run on all WP devices if tango can run on the new Lumia 610. Sure some sensors may be missing or something but those issues are trivial compared to not having the upgrade.
    Johnny Vegas
    • agreed

      I was almost going to say there was no need for Tango, since the price of 1 yr old windows phone 7 has dropped so much. you can pick one up in the UK for $230 or less.. the specs are (1 GHz 512RAM 8GB memory). The ZTE cheepy phone or Nokia 610 goes for more than that.
  • keeping current windows phone users, after December

    I have an iphone 3GS which is almost 3yrs old with two major OS updates+ it still runs most apps in the App Store....

    Bought an unlocked HTC Titan 2 months ago in an attempt to help the windows phone 7 platform. But come December, if don't get an OS upgrade for my Titan then its back to IOS where at least I'll get a full 3yr OS support, no questions asked.

    I have made too many sacrifices for wp7.

    Getting people on Windows Phone platform may start to pay off now, but keeping them might be another matter entirely come December.
    • my semi- ultra laptop cost $700 same as the HTC Titan

      come 3 yrs down the road I will still be able to update laptop's OS... This was the same approach I took initially with my value for money 3yr old iphone 3GS.. and would have been the same approach for the Titan..

      I don't care about Phone Hardware after 3yrs , all care about is the OS and being able to use apps.
  • It's Ok to go for New device for major ver change...!

    I had iPhone 3G, Apple allowed to upgrade it till ver. 4.x, but then it screwed up the device performance severely, i got to jailbreak to go back to 3.x latest ver. Still the perf. issues didn't go away fully. Why allow 4.x if it's not going to be that great in first place...!

    Considering this, and the way Smartphone specs change every year (1-2proc.-4proc), with new hardware added, it's good decision by MSFT to push for New Device for major ver upgrades like 7->8, but allow minor ver upgrades for old customers...!