Microsoft: Touch-first Office apps will come to more devices

Microsoft is committed to bringing touch-first Office apps to not just Windows devices, but 'other devices,' as well, officials say.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft officials have acknowledged this year that touch-first versions of the core Office apps were in the pipeline.

But at the company's Financial Analyst Meeting (FAM) on September 19, officials took that a step further and confirmed that touch-first Office apps also will be coming to non-Microsoft platforms.

The suite of touch-first Office core apps -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote -- are codenamed "Gemini." Microsoft officials have said Gemini will be available on Windows some time in 2014.

At FAM, Qi Lu, the Executive Vice President of Microsoft's new Applications and Services engineering unit, hinted that more touch-first Office apps are likely to be coming to other non-Microsoft platforms. 

"We are working on touch-first versions of our core apps on Office," Lu told analysts attending FAM. "We will bring these to Windows devices and also to other devices in ways that meet our customers needs and value, annd in ways that make sense economically for Microsoft and in the proper timeframe."

I may be going out on a limb here (but don't think I am), but I'm reading "other devices" as meaning non-Windows devices.

Lu said Microsoft uses a combination of factors in deciding which applications to ship on which devices and when. He said the company evaluates customer interest, the ability to deliver a quality user experience, and economics ("It needs to make sense for Microsoft.")

Right now, OneNote and Lync are already available on iPads and Android devices. Skype and SkyDrive.com are available on Android and iOS. And an Office 365-tethered version of Office Mobile is available on iPhones. Web versions of the core Office apps -- known as Office Web Apps -- are also available across several browsers and platforms, including iPad and Android tablets.

As I've blogged before, last I heard, Microsoft was planning to roll out Office apps for iPads in the fall of 2014. Lu,expectedly, didn't talk timeframes during FAM.

Speaking of Office, Microsoft officials announced that Office 365 is now on a $1.5 billion annual run rate. In April, it was on a $1 billion run rate, officials said.

Update: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also seemed to indicate Office is coming to other non-Microsoft platforms during his FAM remarks.

Ballmer noted that Microsoft execs' heads were not in the sand. "We're working away on all the things you think we should be working away on," he said.

"We can lead with our devices in the consumer market and even so, if we want people to adopt our services there, is a requirement that we support some other platforms. Windows lovers, we love it. Windows is first. It can be best because we have the capability of doing so. But we're also eyes wide open and being, I think, pretty smart at looking and developing for other platforms."

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