Microsoft Office for Apple iOS, Android Is a Must
Microsoft Office for Apple iOS, Android Is a Must
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 Word.
But, wouldn't it be cool if Microsoft Office, including Word, were available on the iPad and Android tablets?
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 laptop.
Office Will Have an Important Role in the Future of iOS, Android
There is one gigantic advantage for running Office on iOS or Android: When you unplug the tablet from the docking station, you are left with a traditional, sleek iPad or Android tablet. While you might not have as much control managing and editing documents, the Office applications would still be there to assist with updating a basic document.
Running Outlook on an iOS or Android tablet would provide another major change from the way email is managed on these devices. Currently, built-in default mail applications on iOS and Android cannot sync files easily with the Sent folder. However, with Outlook and Exchange, all files and folders would be kept in sync.
If you send an email from the iOS Mail, it will stay in the iOS Mail Sent folder. The next time you go to Outlook on your laptop, those Sent messages would not be present. Under Microsoft Office running on an ARM tablet, all your Sent items would be available across all the devices that use Outlook as the email client. In turn, your emails would be available for you to access and review.
Within the next few years, more tablets are going to be sold than laptops. And, when that happens, Microsoft will be in a good position to offer Office for iOS and Android devices. Besides, most people under the age of 40 are spending more time using either Android or Apple iOS. This means that a whole generation of workers is getting accustomed to that type of user interface, while using Microsoft Windows less and less.
If the current state of development at Microsoft holds up, the company could begin demonstrating Office on ARM by the middle or end of 2012, with the product reaching the market by 2013. While Windows Phone has only generated small market share numbers in North America for Microsoft, Office on ARM would surely generate large market share and may prove to generate more revenue for Microsoft than Windows in this new market.
Naturally, this begs the question: If Microsoft ports Windows and then Office to ARM, and users migrate to using an ARM-based portable, it may-over many years-result in the death of the traditional x86-based laptops. This strategy may result in Intel, which makes the lion's share of the world's x86 chips, creating its own line of ARM architecture or acquiring a company that already does.
No matter how you look at it, Office is going to play a very important role in the future of iOS and Android.