The next wave of updates for Office are codenamed Gemini, and ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley got hold of what looks to be a legit set of Microsoft's plans.
First up is Gemini "Wave 1.0." This first update will bring Windows Blue user interface elements, which make Office more touch friendly, to the Windows 8/RT platforms. Foley says these will supplement, not replace, the full desktop versions of Office. This update is due in October 2013.
[ Is the cloud version of Microsoft Office right for your business? Read Microsoft Office 365: How One Company Saves Big. ]
Gemini Wave 1.5 follows six months later, in April 2014, a full year from now. Wave 1.5 will target Office for Mac and Office for Windows Phone. It will presumably bring design and feature parity to the Win 8/RT and WP8 platforms.
Gemini Wave 2.0, due October 2014, will finally bring Outlook to RT and is when Office for Android and iOS is expected. (The roadmap doesn't specify whether Office will reach tablets and smartphones, or just tablets.) October 2014 is a long time from now, especially considering how rapidly the mobile landscape changes. By that time, Android and iOS each will probably be two full versions down the road, to possibly Android 6 and iOS 8. Who's to say how each will have evolved by then?
Will people even care about stuffing Microsoft Office onto their Android or iOS device at that point? Both devices already offer viable alternatives. On Android, there's Google's cloud-based Docs/Drive product suite, which does much of what Office does. It can be used to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, and works seamlessly with both Android and Google's Chrome browser/OS. Anyone invested in Google's Android and Chrome platforms has little need for Office, as Google Docs are already compatible with Office-generated Word documents or Excel spreadsheets. Google Docs already works perfectly on Android-based tablets and smartphones.
Apple, too, has its own productivity tools. It offers Pages, Numbers, and Keynote as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint replacements. As with Google Docs, Apple's productivity tools are available on its desktop, tablet, and smartphone devices, and can sync seamlessly between the three thanks to iCloud.
Despite these alternatives, plenty of businesses and consumers are entrenched in Microsoft-land, and need Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, whether on their work or home laptop, tablet or smartphone. Microsoft knows that some people want Office on their Android and iOS devices. It's a shame, perhaps, that it is taking Microsoft so long to port Office to its competitors' mobile platforms, but it couldn't hurt Microsoft too much to keep Office exclusive to its Win 8, RT, and WP8 products, could it? This point rings home even stronger when you consider the current state of PC sales.
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