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Microsoft teases touch-first Office for Windows

Gregg Keizer | April 4, 2014
But declines to talk about a release timetable.

That's part of Microsoft's plan to drive users toward the software rent-not-own concept, which provides Microsoft with annuity-like revenue and customers with more frequent updates as well as free upgrades.

Just as important is that a touch-first Office, whether on Apple's iPad or a Windows-powered device, is a way for Microsoft to keep customers in the subscription fold once it's managed to herd them there.

"Absolutely, this is about getting people towards Office 365," said Wes Miller, analyst with Directions on Microsoft, in an interview last week. He was referring to Office on iPad, but could just as easily have been talking about a touch-first Office for Windows. "But Microsoft also needs to drive new things to subscribers to help them justify the annuity they're paying," Miller added.

Touch-ready editions, in Miller's opinion, will provide that in spades to some customers. "In business, there are lengthy evaluations before committing to Office 365," said Miller. "But now when the CEO comes and says, 'I need you to get Office on my iPad,' it's a flash point, as is Power BI, that means you should take a look at [Office 365]."

Power BI, for "Business Intelligence," is a set of tools and services that work with Office 365. It launched in February.

The 2-in-1 device form factor that Microsoft and Intel are promoting, however, may require a slight tweak of the Office 365 tie-in model for a touch-first Office on Windows.

Office 365 plans provide rights to install the desktop version, Office 2013, on up to five Windows PCs, including 2-in-1 devices such as Microsoft's own Surface Pro 2, as well as up to five tablets, the iPad touch-only version being the current best example. When Office for Modern — that last word was widely used Wednesday during the Build keynote, illustrating that Microsoft may have finally settled on it as a label — debuts, will the device count as one install, even if both are installed, or will the Office 2013 + Office for Modern installs on a single device count as two?

Like most information about the new touch Office for Windows, those answers will have to wait until Microsoft is ready to give them.


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