Microsoft exec: More multi-platform mobile products coming in 2012

Watch for Microsoft to continue to roll out more of its productivity wares on non-Microsoft platforms in 2012, an official with the Office 365 team says.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

It was a week of rapid-fire releases of Microsoft apps for non-Microsoft mobile platforms, but Microsoft's not done yet.

In 2012, expect more Microsoft productivity wares to come to various mobile platforms, including Android, said Tom Rizzo, Senior Director of Office 365.

"We want to work where people work, whether it's online or offline, and on various platforms," Rizzo told me during a phone interview on December 16.

Microsoft rolled out this week an updated version of OneNote for the iPhone; a new release of OneNote for the iPad; a SkyDrive cloud-storage app for iPhone; a Lync client for Android; and Hotmail for Android. (Lync for iPhone is still awaiting Apple's approval, the Softies said this week. Officials declined to say when/if they'd have a SkyDrive app customized for the iPad.)

Why not more focus on Android -- which is actually ahead of the iPhone in terms of smartphone share? One of my readers wondered aloud whether it might be because Microsoft considers Android tablets more of a threat because of the success of Google Docs. Not the case, said Rizzo, who said Microsoft's prioritization of mobile releases is based on customer feedback and demand.

"Android is more of a consumer device play. But iOS and iPad are mattering more in the enterprise," Rizzo said.

(Microsoft plans to make its Office productivity apps work first and best with Windows Phone, he was quick to add. And nope -- no update on those rumors that Microsoft will deliver Office on the iPad in some fashion in 2012.)

A couple more Rizzo razzes from our interview today:

* He denied that Microsoft's claimed success with small business users with Office 365 means the Microsoft-hosted bundle of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync isn't gaining traction with enterprise users. "We are being successful in the enterprise and have announced names of some big customers going with Office 365," Rizzo said. He also said that Microsoft's large number of enterprise users of Office 365's predecessor, BPOS, are moving to Office 365, but that such a move takes time.

* What about an Office 365 appliance? Could Microsoft offer Office 365 in a box -- the way it planned to offer Azure in a box -- i.e., as a private-cloud appliance running outside of Microsoft's datacenters? Customers who want to run Office 365 this way can do it themselves, Rizzo said, minus the "magic sauce" that Microsoft provides as part of its Online Service Delivery Platform around commerce, billing, etc. "Customers can do this today without us packaging it up and selling it this way," he said. Or they can rely on a partner/hosting provider to do it for them.

* Microsoft isn't afraid to put on the gloves and go on the Google Apps offensive these days. Rizzo attempted to spread a little FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) by rattling off some statistics about how small a percentage of sales Google Apps is compared to Google's overall revenues. He asked whether Google Apps could fall into the category of less-central products that are being sent to the Google chopping block. "Google Apps is just a footnote in Google's repetoire," Rizzo maintained. (For the record, Microsoft is doing the same kind of weaning of products -- and business units -- that its brass no longer consider central to its core business.)

Speaking of the Microsoft-Google rivalry, doesn't free still win every time? Microsoft officials continue to say there are no plans to roll out a free entry-level version of Office 365. But with a $6 per user per month SKU available -- the price of a cup of a fancy Starbucks beverage, Rizzo quipped -- Microsoft thinks it finally has a small-business package to rival Google.

* Besides more mobile productivity clients, what else is coming in 2012 on the Office 365 front? Rizzo said Microsoft plans to continue on its quarterly update pace, with some on-premises features (like some of the improvements added to Exchange Server 2010 SP2) making their way into the cloud, plus some new cloud-specific capabilities for the point products that are part of the Office 365 suite.

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