We've known for months that Microsoft was bringing a version of Microsoft Office 2013 to Android tablets and Apple's iPad family. Now, according to the Czech tech news site, IHNED, Microsoft product manager Petr Bobek has said that Microsoft is planning to release native iOS and Android versions of Office 2013 in the first quarter of 2013
Bobek, a Microsoft Office portfolio manager in the Czech Republic, said that these new versions of Office will be available to larger companies and Microsoft partners In December 2012. small-office/home-office (SOHO) and household users will have to wait until at least February. The online version of Office 365 edition for mobile devices and tablets will appear in early 2013.
In an e-mail, the author of the INHED story clarified that the release would be after March 2013. "We had a slight miscommunication with the MS guys and the timeline for Office for iOS and Android is not a March release, but release sometime after March."
Officially, the only thing Microsoft had to say at first was that "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."
Later the same day, Microsoft's head of corporate communications, Frank X. Shaw, denied the whole story. Shaw tweeted, "The information shared by our Czech Republic subsidiary is not accurate. We have nothing further to share."
No matter when Microsoft delivers the Android and iOS goods, Microsoft's support of any version of Office on a non-Windows smartphone or tablet strikes me as an odd move. In a shareholder letter, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that Microsoft is shifting its model to focus on devices and services. This is a radical and dangerous shift for a company that's always made it money from software licensing. And, now, instead of using Office as a crowbar to pry users from iPads and Android tablets to its Surface tablets, Microsoft is going to offer Office 2013 on its device rivals? Odd. Very odd.
Historically, Microsoft has locked its customers into its software ecosystem. Since Microsoft is a non-starter in the mobile space, I find it surprising that they're not trying to exploit its Office suite in a similar manner in this new market.
That said, given the early reports of Office 2013, which didn't even have touch enabled for its tablet versions by default, I don't see Google, with Google Docs and QuickOffice, being worried about Microsoft being a rival on either devices or services anytime soon.
Updated with correction on releae date by Otakar Schon, the author of the orginial Czech story and Microsoft's denial of the story.
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