We’ve kept hearing rumors and seeing leaks about a potential Microsoft Office version for both the iPad and Android tablets. Could this be true. Is Microsoft finally admitted defeat and that they need to put their apps on both Google’s and Apple’s platforms?
Microsoft is risking a lot with all the changes they’ve done in Windows 8. And that’s something even their CEO has said about a year ago – that Windows 8 will be their riskiest bet yet. And by that they mean that it could very much fail to get traction in the market. But Windows is one of Microsoft’s 2 biggest cash cows, by far. Nothing else really compares to the revenue they get from these 2 pieces of software. So betting the Windows revenue on Windows 8 could be devastating to Microsoft, but betting both cash cows on Windows 8 would be even more damaging.
This is why Microsoft needs to forget about the idea that they only really need to run Office on Windows, while both Android and iOS are gathering hundreds of millions of users, and in a few years they’ll have over a billion each, which means there’s a huge opportunity for other Office applications to become the defacto standard on these platforms, and not Microsoft’s Office.
This means they won’t get to decide what the standard doc format is anymore, and so on. Right now most people use Office only because of its familiarity and because they lock them in the .docx format, which is a little trickier for other applications to read. But right now on Android there are at least several good Office alternatives like Google’s Docs/Drive, Docs to Go, QuickOffice, Polaris Office, OfficeSuite, KingSoft Office, ThinkFree Office, and many others. Soon there will even be LibreOffice for Android.
Whether Windows 8 will be successful or not, Microsoft needs to hedge their bets with the other cash cow, Office, which means they’ll have to make it available for both Android and iOS very soon. Rumors say it will be available as soon as this fall. I’m not sure whether they will make it available for Android in the same day as iOS, though, probably because they dislike Google more than Apple. But this mobile version will be much lighter than what is available on the desktop anyway, and there are already plenty of great alternatives for Microsoft’s Office. So while this could mean a big step for Microsoft, it doesn’t really mean much for the users of mobile devices.