Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's Business Division, tantalized attendees of Web 2.0 Expo with hints that the software giant will eventually release a mobile version of Office for the iPhone. He also said that the company is continuing to work on an "ad supported" edition of Office for the Web.
SAN FRANCISCO-Stephen Elop, president of
Microsoft Business Division, voiced vague indications at Web 2.0 Expo that
Microsoft will eventually offer a mobile version of Office for the iPhone, a
move that has been rumored for almost as long as Apple's smartphone has been on
Tim O'Reilly, CEO of O'Reilly Media, the
organizer of the Web 2.0 conference, asked Elop whether Microsoft was really
committed to getting its major productivity applications running on the Web and
on mobile devices.
Elop said Microsoft recognizes that there is a growing demand from
smartphone users for access to a variety Web applications and productivity
applications. For example, he noted that many people are accessing their
Facebook accounts with their iPhones because the devices and mobile operating
systems have evolved to make it practical to access Web applications like
Facebook and a host of others.
While the users of iPhones and other smartphone models can access Word, Excel
and PowerPoint files, they also want to be able to edit them from their
O'Reilly asked Elop if this meant that iPhone users would eventually get
access to a mobile edition of Microsoft Office. "Not yet-keep watching," Elop
Elop also said Microsoft is still planning to introduce an "ad-supported"
Web edition of its bread-and-butter Office suite
, something that the company
has been talking about since it introduced its Office Live Web application
services for small businesses in early 2006.
He said Microsoft is actively working on the latest iteration of a Web-based
, but the release of even beta application code "won't be in
this calendar year."
Part of the problem, Elop said, is that Microsoft has to be very careful
about how it builds the user interface for the Web or for mobile applications.
Microsoft Office is used by more than 500 million people around the world. The
company has to take care that it doesn't fundamentally change the interface so
that all those millions of people don't have to relearn how to use the
application, he said.
Microsoft's goal is not to deliver an Office Web application that responds
to the supposed challenge of Google Docs, Elop said. The objective is to
deliver real innovation and value in a Web application service that enterprise
users will be willing to use and pay for.
Google Docs may be free, but Microsoft will succeed with Web applications
"only if we are delivering value well beyond" elementary features such as
bolding and underlining in the browser, Elop said.
The greatest threat to Office is not from Web applications like Google Docs,
Elop contends. The danger is that Microsoft will stop innovating and improving
Office and its other products, he said.
With the recession, he said, "Microsoft is taking a lot of heat" from financial
market analysts, who say the company should boost profitability in part by
slashing research and development costs. He noted that Microsoft spent about $9
billion in research and development and is resisting the calls for cutbacks.
"We have to continue to innovate, and that is something that we are committed
Elop contends that enterprise customers are discovering the value of Web
applications such as social networks, wikis, blogs and data portals. "What's
happening behind the firewall is the same as what is happening on the Web,"
Elop said. The difference is that "with the enterprise you can translate that
value into something that companies are willing to pay for," he said.