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Office Mobile for iPhone: What's really at stake for Microsoft and Apple?

Mark Hachman | June 17, 2013
Putting a cut-down version of Microsoft Office onto the iPhone won't change the world. But if more data passes back and forth between formerly incompatible platforms, what's not to love?

"I don't know if Apple gets anything out of it, because I don't know that people weren't buying Apple products because they coudn't get Office on it," Silver said. It might be different if Microsoft supports Office on the iPad, he said.

The key appears to be that in restricting Office to the iPhone, Apple leaves the iPad an exclusively iWork platform—unless users want to access the Office Web Apps via the Safari browser, that is.

Earlier than expected?
Shipping a version of Office for either iOS or Android devices has been the subject of rumors for months. Early reports had indicated that it wouldn't happen until the fall of 2014, although the possibility has been discussed for the better part of a year. That's left the door open to third-party developers, including everyone from CloudOn to OnLive, to bring Office to the iPad and other platforms.

Microsoft already ships a version of Office for the Mac platform, although the suite, Office for Mac 2011, is generally considered to be a year behind the Windows version. A version of Microsoft's Office 365 is also available for the Mac, with the 20 GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 minutes of Skype calls available to Windows users. But, at its heart, it's the same Office for Mac 2011 suite that Mac users can buy as a standalone package.

In the future, Microsoft may hope to push Office to the remainder of the iOS ecosystem, including the iPad, which is suited more for productivity than the iPhone. And then there's the Android world, which would represent the final frontier for Office.

"I think that there's always a question about whether the Office product group is there to sell Office products, or there to prop up Windows, and the more time we go before we see an iPad version or an Android version, the more that comes into question," Gartner's Silver said. "An iPhone version really isn't proof of that. Again, I'm not sure how many people are going to want to do a lot of Office work on a phone. A tablet's going to be a lot more important."

According to Miller, iWork isn't really an option for even the smallest of businesses, which will welcome Office. An updated version of Office for the Mac is reportedly due in 2014, although Miller said he'd heard nothing official.

But for now, merely pushing Office into competition with Apple's iWork suite is achievement enough. No mobile platform is entirely "pure," in the sense that it's isolated from other services. Outlook.com exists as an Android app. Windows Phone can now tap into Google's YouTube. And the iPhone has both a Gmail app, Google Maps, and now Office as well.

 

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