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

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.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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?

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