Rumors of iPad-Compatible Office Dismissed: Implications and Prospects

12 Oct

There was a noteworthy speculation a number of days ago regarding how mobile users may finally see an official Office application on their next-gen mobile product. As was initially reported in Verge, the Czech subsidiary of Microsoft claimed that beginning 2013, Microsoft Office will be made available on diverse mobile platforms such as the Windows Phone, Mac OS, Android, Windows RT, and Symbian. The specific reference to Apple’s operating system, in particular, encouraged many to speculate if the next iPad successor, likely to be announced during March 2013, will be released in time to feature Microsoft’s new Office application.

Interestingly, before rumors could go viral, the above news was quickly shot down by officials from other branches of the software company. Using twitter, Microsoft spokesperson Frank Shaw simply passed off the information as “inaccurate,” adding that there is “nothing more to share at this time.” Another company representative, shortly after, released a confirmatory email statement stating what Shaw had mentioned earlier.

The disconfirmation may ultimately be disappointing to some, although it should be noted that the Czech representatives’ original claims do revitalize a crucial discussion regarding the implications of an iPad-compatible Office (rumors and debates concerning this possibility, apparently, have been circulating for more than a year). Erica Ogg from Gigaom recently mentioned that the move would be a sensible one, given that the iPad is still the “king” of the tablet market and that more of these products are being utilized within the business and enterprise sectors. A number of months ago, Tom Bradley from PC World took a similar stance. Pointing to Microsoft’s slowly deteriorating PC market monopoly, the writer argues that ignoring iOS and Android mobile users will only serve to further isolate Microsoft’s software brand. It is predicted that this would put a dent on Microsoft’s market status, which may potentially hurt Microsoft in the long run regardless of how well the Surface tablet performs.

Allowing Office to become widely available on third party mobile products, of course, will not be without its disadvantages and setbacks. Apple’s app center, for one, already features a variety of applications that performs the functions available in Microsoft Office. Whether adding another Office based program for iOS is completely necessary –and whether the pricing will be such that consumers will find acceptable– will be amongst the issues for Microsoft to consider. Given how Microsoft seems certain to equip Surface tablets with the Office software, allowing the program to be widely downloaded in third party hardware might also serve as slight obstacle to the software company in terms of product differentiation.

Arguably, none of these concerns ultimately matters until Microsoft confirms how it plans to utilize its widely used trademark software. One could say that Shaw’s vague twitter statement does not necessarily invalidate the potential existence of an iPad-compatible-Office, but rather leaves its possibility open ended. While this means that there is a small likelihood that Microsoft will still openly release Office, there’s no telling when the software giant will officially pursue this option.

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