A purported Microsoft roadmap for future releases of its Office suite showed a fall 2014 launch date for Office on Apple's iOS and Google's Android mobile operating systems, an online report said today.
Mary-Jo Foley, who blogs at ZDNet, citing an unnamed source and an unpublished timetable, pegged the long-rumored, long-expected Office for the iPad and Android tablets as appearing in Oct. 2014, or 18 months from now.
Other milestones spelled out in the alleged roadmap, said Foley, included an Oct. 2013 refresh to Office 2013 and Office 365 -- part of the "Blue" project to kick off a faster development and release tempo -- and an April 2014 debut of a new version of Office for Macs.
But it was the date for a tablet-ready Office aimed at iOS and Android that drew the most attention.
"That's too late for Office on iPad, the market is moving too fast," said Frank Gillett, an analyst with Forrester Research, in an email today. "It would be a mistake. Users and software vendors will have solved the productivity document issue by then -- Google's buy of Quickoffice is a strong indicator of that -- and it will cause customers to drift away from Microsoft."
Google acquired Quickoffice in 2012, and rolled that firm's development team into the Google Apps group. Last week, Google launched free iPhone and Android Quickoffice apps -- the latter for both smartphones and tablets -- for Google Apps for Business customers, the cloud-based suite that costs $50 per user for a one-year subscription. Google issued a similar free app for the iPad in late 2012.
Bob O'Donnell of IDC also viewed an Oct. 2014 ship date as a blunder.
"That's the wrong choice," O'Donnell said in a Wednesday interview. "At the end of the day, Microsoft has to decide whether they are a Windows company or an Office company. They have to come to terms with that."
From O'Donnell's perspective, Microsoft should lean toward Office, not Windows, because the latter's sales are increasingly dismal. Tying Office to Windows -- as Microsoft has done, and assuming the Oct. 2014 date is accurate, will continue to do -- shuts off a revenue source for Office: Non-Windows devices.
"Increasingly, I think Office's strengths are being weakened by the Windows issues they're having," O'Donnell said, citing weak sales of Windows 8- and Windows RT-powered tablets.
Most analysts and Microsoft-watchers believe that Microsoft has hesitated to sell Office on iOS and Android because the company's Windows group sees the suite as a major selling point for its Windows tablets. Wanting to retain that advantage, the Windows team has blocked the move. Meanwhile, the Office group has likely lobbied for a release sooner rather than later by claiming it can book impressive revenue.
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