Office for Android and iOS is apparently due early next year, according to unnamed sources speaking to The Verge.
“Office Mobile will debut in the form of free apps that allow Android and iOS users to view Microsoft Office documents on the move,” the publication suggested. “Like the existing SkyDrive and OneNote apps, Office Mobile will require a Microsoft account.” The ability to actually edit Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents will come only with a subscription to Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity suite.
In its particulars, Office for Android and iOS could resemble the Office hub included with Windows Phone, Microsoft’s own smartphone platform. The Windows Phone version of Office allows for viewing documents and some light editing, but lacks the extensive toolset available in the desktop version of the software.
While Office continues to drive a significant portion of Microsoft’s bottom-line revenues, the widespread embrace of mobile devices presents a challenge to the platform. Gartner recently predicted that Android will run on 2.3 billion devices by 2016, making it the most popular operating system in the world—an enormous potential base for QuickOffice, a cloud-based productivity suite acquired in June by Google.
Google is also a significant challenger on the cloud front, where it offers a full suite of Google Apps. Microsoft’s Office 365, which combines Lync Online, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and a cloud-based version of Office Professional Plus, is designed to blunt Google’s foray into productivity. Although the cloud remains a relatively miniscule portion of the overall market for such software, Microsoft and Google clearly realize that the importance of that arena will only grow in coming years.
Microsoft may also figure that restricting the functionality of its productivity software on iOS and Android could help drive customers to Surface and other Windows 8 tablets, which can run the full version of Office. Surface, which Microsoft is building in-house rather than leaving the hardware to an outside manufacturer, faces a hard battle for market-share against Apple’s iPad and the various Google tablets.