Microsoft Office for iPhone, iPad, Android to Debut in 2013: Report

The move would finally enable users of Android and Apple tablets, smartphones and other devices to view Microsoft Office documents.

Mobile versions of Microsoft Office for Android, iPads and iPhones are on their way and will arrive for users in the Spring of 2013, according to a report from The Verge.

"Although Office Mobile has been rumored and reportedly spotted in the wild, Microsoft has remained persistently quiet about its plans for the product," the report said. "The Verge has learned through several sources close to Microsoft's plans that the company will release Office versions for Android and iOS in early 2013."

The expected Office Mobile products will first arrive as "free apps that allow Android and iOS users to view Microsoft Office documents on the move," the story said. "Like the existing SkyDrive and OneNote apps, Office Mobile will require a Microsoft account. 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."

The Office apps won't be seen as full replacements for stand-alone desktop versions of Microsoft Office, however. Instead, they will provide basic editing capabilities for users who want to do basic manipulations with their mobile devices. If users need more functions, they will be able to buy an Office 365 subscription within the app or obtain a code through their organization that will unleash additional capabilities, according to The Verge story.

The iOS version of Office Mobile is expected by late February or early March, to be followed by the Android version in May, according to the report.

Rumors and reports about Microsoft Office versions that can be run on iOS and Android have been circulating for a while.

In October, Microsoft denied a report from one of its product managers in the Czech Republic that Office would soon come for iOS and Android. "The information shared by our Czech subsidiary is not accurate," the company said at that time. "We do not have anything further to share at this time."

Tech news Websites have been abuzz the last few months with rumors and speculation about what Microsoft is going to do and whether it should do it. In July, Microsoft advertised for software developers to work at its campus in Mountain View, Calif., "on the design, implementation and testing of new feature work to be part of Microsoft's next move on the Mac and on iOS."

Microsoft at the time of the ad posting stated that Office Mobile is already available on iOS, Android and, of course, Microsoft Windows Phone. The Czech report, though, specifies that Office will be available natively next March on those non-Microsoft platforms.

Running Office on Android and iOS poses good news and bad news for Microsoft. The good news is that with Apple- and Google-powered devices commanding so much of the market, Microsoft could quickly expand its presence in the apps market for those two platforms by making Office available on them.

The bad news is that if people can get the widely used Office suite on an iOS or Android device, they might not need to buy a Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8 device such as the Microsoft Surface tablet; other tablets from Asus, Dell or Lenovo; or smartphones from HTC, Nokia or Samsung.

There may be a third way, though. Microsoft in September revealed pricing for Office 365, the cloud-based version of the Office suite. For both home users and small businesses, a subscriber could pay a monthly fee for Office 365 and run it on up to five devices that could be Windows or Mac devices, including desktop and notebook PCs, tablets and smartphones. Accessing Office in the cloud could be a way to bring the productivity suite to a variety of device types, including iOS and Android.