Microsoft's Office for iOS, Android: Not until fall 2014?

An alleged roadmap for Microsoft's two-year wave of coming Office updates implies Office for iOS and Android may be further away than many industry watchers thought.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

An alleged roadmap for Microsoft's coming 'Gemini' wave of Office updates, if accurate, indicates Microsoft's Office for iOS and Android -- as well as Outlook for Windows RT -- may be further away than many hoped and expected.


A source of mine shared what appears to me to be a real roadmap for Gemini.

It kicks off with "Gemini wave 1.0," which includes the "Blue" Metro-Style/Windows Store complements to the core set of Office products -- namely, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. From what I've heard previously,  these four apps will be more touch-centric and will work on Windows 8 and Windows RT. They will supplement, not replace, the desktop/Win32 versions of these apps that already exist. These apps will be made available to customers by October 2013, according to the purported roadmap.

The 1.5 wave of the Gemini updates is set for April 2014, the roadmap indicates. This is when the Office team will deliver the next version of Mac Office and an update to Office for Windows Phone. April 2014 also is listed as when Microsoft plans to make Office customized for LSX hardware. LSX is "large screen experience," i.e., Perceptive Pixel large-screen, multitouch systems.

There's one other interesting projected milestone for April 2014: "Office RT." I'm thinking this is a refresh of the desktop version of Word RT, Excel RT, PowerPoint RT and OneNote RT -- the desktop versions of the current Office 2013 RT suite that Microsoft ported to ARM and bundled with Windows RT.  I'm doubtful this will be other Office apps ported to Windows RT, even though one of my contacts claimed recently that the Office team already completed ports of most, if not all, of its Office apps to ARM.

One app that seemingly won't be part of the spring 2014 update, if this roadmap is real and accurate, is Outlook  RT. It appears Microsoft may be holding back the Outlook RT application until the fall (October) of 2014 for some reason -- despite the fact that this app is in the midst of being tested privately, both inside and outside Microsoft. I really hope this is wrong and that Microsoft has decided to speed up delivery of this one, given the Mail app on Windows RT is still nothing to write home about, even though Microsoft did make some needed improvements to the Windows 8/Windows RT Mail app in March 2013.

Also on the roadmap for fall 2014 is what's listed as iOS/Android support for Office. One would assume this is the expected and widely rumored Office for iPad release. It could, however, be Office for iPhone and Android phone, given that it's not listed on the roadmap as being tablet-specific.

Rumors about Microsoft's plans to deliver Office for iOS and Android have been circulating for more than a year. Microsoft officials have never outright denied these apps were in development. A number of us Microsoft watchers heard from our various sources that these apps were on track to be delivered by early- to mid-2013.

The most recent rumors/expectations have been that Microsoft may be making these mobile iOS/Android versions of Office available as part of an Office 365 subscription of some kind. The alleged roadmap makes no mention of an Office 365/subscription tie-in. It only mentions "iOS/Android" as a Gemini Fall 2014 deliverable.

In sum, this is what the alleged roadmap indicates:

Gemini Wave 1.0 (October 2013): Windows Blue app updates

Gemini Wave 1.5 (April 2014): Office for Mac; Office RT refresh; Perceptive Pixel support; Windows Phone support refresh

Gemini Wave 2.0 (October 2014): Outlook RT; Office for iOS/Android

I do not know how old this purported roadmap is, but my contact indicated it was likely current as of the start of 2013. I asked Microsoft Office officials for comment on the alleged roadmap, but they declined to do so.

"We don’t have any information to share about the next set of updates to Office," a spokesperson said.

One last thing to keep in mind: Even when Microsoft commits to ship targets in roadmaps, things can and often do change. Demand (or lack thereof) can result in planned products releasing earlier or later than the planners anticipate. 

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