Microsoft Sends Mixed Signals About Office on Android, iOS

Microsoft on Oct. 10 denied a report from one of its product managers in the Czech Republic that its Office suite of productivity applications would be available on Google Android and Apple iOS devices as soon as March 2013.

“The information shared by our Czech subsidiary is not accurate. We do not have anything further to share at this time,” Microsoft stated.

The Website The Verge repeated a report from the Czech Website IHND that quoted Microsoft product manager Petr Bobek as saying that Office apps would be available natively early next year. The Verge also said that one of its people in the Czech Republic saw a Microsoft news release stating, “In addition to Windows, Office will be also available on other operating systems, Windows Phone, Windows RT, Mac OS, Android, iOS and Symbian.”

Tech news Websites have been abuzz the last few months with rumors and speculation about what Microsoft is going to do and whether or not they 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, why would they 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.

But Microsoft still isn’t saying one way or another.