Reports Of Full Blown Office Being “Seen” On The iPad

Mary Jo Foley has posted a new story where The Daily is reporting that they had a private demonstration of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint running on an iPad.

I attended distributor training on Windows 8, Server 2012, and Office a few months ago. During one of the Office sessions, we heard “Office on iPad” a few times so I piped up with a question.

When you say “Office on iPad”, do you mean the full product or just the bits that are already there, like Lync and OneNote?

The presenter, a fairly senior person from the Office division, thought about that for some time. It was like a politician had just been cornered with a question. And then the response was something along the lines of (not a quote): “I’ve not been briefed on a full Office on iPad, I’m talking about Lync and OneNote native apps and Web Apps for the rest”.

I had no evidence of any kind to say the truth was something else. But it was that delay of a second or two while he thought, that’s what got my attention. So what does full blown Office on iPad mean? What form will it come in?

The simplest and least effective is some sort of RemoteApp session to Remote Desktop Services. You can do this right now using an ICA client to a Citrix farm. Want to full a non-techie? Do this and it’ll look like Office 2013 is running on an iPad.

I personally thought Microsoft would go with the next option: Just make sure that Office Web Apps run on Safari on iOS and Android devices. The pros of this is that it can be done quickly. Plus it easily ties the iPad customer to Office365 subscriptions, just where Microsoft wants ‘em.

The least likely to me is that Microsoft will quickly turn around native iOS apps for Office. I think that’s the one that an iPad customer would like the most. But I see lots of problems with this approach:

  • It’s one thing to do Skype, Lync, and OneNote on iPad, but it’s a whole other development project to get Office running as native apps. Does Microsoft have the skills?
  • Remember that Office is more than just a program, it’s a client that connects to services. Does iPad have everything that Windows does to take full advantage of Office365?
  • Local storage on iPad is a joke compared to Windows, etc. How bloated will Word be when people are storing files locally? Will they be able to store files locally or will there be an assumption of always-online for SkyDrive Pro, SkyDrive, or Office365?
  • Can Microsoft really have native apps for iPad before they do Metro (yeah, I said it) apps for Windows 8? I’m not talking about logistics … I’m talking about the appearance of it to the customer.
  • How would Microsoft distribute Office on iPad? It can’t go through the channels like Office on Mac. Will it be sold through the App Store? Will businesses be able to get it via volume licensing and side load it via Windows Intune? Will it be made available via some side load with an Office 365 subscription? Will there be a code you get (volume license or O365) to enter in iTunes to install it via the Apple direct channel?

I’ve no idea what the reporter(s) from The Daily saw or didn’t see. I wasn’t there. I’m making no assumptions. There’s been rumours of Office on iPad for quite some time, and it would make sense if the client appeared in some form on a top selling device. Remember that Microsoft is now a devices & services company, and Office365 is a service that they really want to push in 2013, no matter what sort of device you’re using.

EDIT:

Hmm, it appears that Microsoft France is allegedly leaking again: Their support page mentioned “Office Mobile for iPhone”. There’s more on this here.

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