Will Microsoft Office for iOS Get Caught in Apps Showdown?

Evidence of Office for iOS is starting to mount, but Microsoft's battle over Apple's fee structure for apps could complicate things.

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Microsoft's struggles in the tablet realm aren't limited to slow Surface sales. They're starting to spill over onto iOS, and it could affect plans to release Office apps for Apple's market-leading mobile ecosystem.

Officially, Microsoft officials have been tight-lipped on the topic of an Office app for iOS. It's an understandable tactic, considering that the giant software company would prefer that all eyes remain glued to the big-ticket debuts of Windows 8 and Surface RT.

But cracks are starting to appear in the wall of secrecy surrounding plans to release a version of the productivity suite that runs on Apple's iPad and iPhone.

Earlier this week, MacRumors reported that a blog called Mac4ever noticed some intriguing new additions to Microsoft's French support site. The site references several Office components running on iOS devices. They include Office Mobile for iPhone, Excel for iPad and PowerPoint for iPad.

While the leak seems to indicate that an iOS version of Office is far enough along that it's wending its way into support documentation, Microsoft officials say that the newly unearthed information is an error, not a stealth disclosure. Like the information shared by its Czech subsidiary, Microsoft is urging industry watchers to take online reports with a grain of salt.

In October, Microsoft product manager Petr Bobek for the region was quoted as saying that native Office apps for iOS and Android would make an appearance in early 2013. A press release making similar claims also reportedly made the rounds. At the time, Microsoft shot down the report as inaccurate.

History repeats itself this week. In an email, a Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK, that "the information on the sites was incorrect."

“We do not have any products by these names," the spokesperson said, adding that as far as plans, "we do not comment on rumors or speculation."

Nonetheless, recent reports are lending support to rumors that Microsoft is readying Office Apps for iOS along with Google's Android mobile operating system.

Last month, The Verge published screenshots of Office software running on iOS and Android. According to the report, "On first launch, a Microsoft account will provide access to the basic viewing functionality in the apps. Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents will all be supported, and edit functionality can be enabled with an Office 365 subscription."

Subscriptions are currently at the heart of a row between Microsoft and Apple involving the SkyDrive app for iOS. Microsoft has an update in the wings but is reportedly balking at Apple's practice of taking a 30 percent cut of in-app profits and is seeking a compromise.

While not expressly discounting this version of events, the Microsoft spokesperson volunteered, "Regarding the Skydrive iOS app, similar to the experiences of some other companies, we are experiencing a delay in approval of our updated SkyDrive for iOS. We are in contact with Apple regarding the matter and hope to come to a resolution."

Given the potential for big Office revenue via the iTunes App Store, it's a resolution that can't come fast enough.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...