NEWS ANALYSIS: Microsoft is developing Windows 8 to work with both ARM and x86 chip architectures. Now, it's time for the software giant to develop a version of Office that works with Apple iOS and Google Android.
Mobile is a term that is
very quickly taking on new meanings. Only five years ago, mobile just used to
mean laptops. Then, the term expanded to include the ubiquitous BlackBerry
devices that everyone carried. Now, it's more of a general term that not only
includes laptops and BlackBerry devices, but also the ever-increasing offerings
of smartphones and tablets that have invaded the market in the last 18 months.
However, there is one clear
difference between a Mac or Windows notebook and, for example, iOS-based
devices such as the iPhone or iPad, and that is Microsoft Office with
applications such as Word, Excel and Outlook. Today, Office runs on both Mac and
Windows desktops and portables but does not (currently) run on any mobile OS
device, such as an iPhone or Android device.
Earlier this year, Microsoft
announced plans to port Windows from x86-based machines to ARM, a decision that
could have far-reaching implications for the future of mobile products. The
first rendition of Windows ARM will be on Windows 8 coming out in 2012.
If Microsoft is successful
in porting Windows to ARM, it's a foregone conclusion that Microsoft will
follow that up by making Office available for ARM-based products as well.
This will change the
landscape of how tablets are used. While Office could conceivably also be
ported to handheld devices running on ARM processors, the port to ARM tablets
is much easier due to the larger-7- to 10-inch-screen sizes.
One of the clear
deficiencies in using a tablet today is the lack of support of applications
that run on laptops. When you want to edit a Word document on an iPad, for
example, various viewers and readers have been built into the process, such as
DocumetsToGo, iWork (Apple), PDF Reader (Adobe), Office2 HD (iTunes link) and
QuickOffice. These products open the Word file and allow basic editing and then
save it back in the same file format. These are meant to replace Microsoft
But, wouldn't it be cool if
Microsoft Office, including Word, were available on the iPad and Android
Then, millions of tablet
users could work on their Office documents on their desktop, laptop, iPad or
Android tablet. Microsoft would have to provide support for thousands of
printers, keyboard and mouse support, support for larger displays, touch-screen
input as well as interfacing to iOS and Android.
Since there really isn't a
universal file system available to users outside individual applications on
most mobile operation systems, particularly iOS and Android, users would manage
files using a product like Dropbox.
Now, imagine taking a
10-inch iPad, marrying it with a wireless mouse and keyboard, and placing it in
a dock to hold the iPad and attaching a large, 23-inch monitor through the
docking unit. With Microsoft Office installed, this configuration would operate
much like a laptop.
At this point, you might ask
how different would a traditional laptop be from an iPad running Microsoft
Office? You'd no longer have the traditional Windows interface, but once you
loaded one of the basic Office applications, such as Word, the operation inside
that application would behave very similar to the way Word runs today on an x86