Apple often speaks of a “post PC era.” Microsoft talks about a “PC plus era.” Each company is framing the future around its strengths, so believe what you will. Whether post or plus, though, mobile computing is here to stay. And if Microsoft wants Office to remain the industry standard, it'll eventually need to offer it on the biggest mobile platforms. Just don't hold your breath for that.
Well-connected Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet got her hands on an alleged Office roadmap. It includes some upcoming updates to the suite: a Windows Blue update, an Office for RT refresh, new Office for Mac, and an updated version for Windows Phone.
Sounds reasonable enough, so far.
But the real gem is in Office for iOS and Android. Those apps are expected to release in ... wait for it ... October of 2014. As in, a year and a half from now “October of 2014.”
Why the delay? Paul Thurrott of Windows Supersite put it best:
- Office for iPad, launched at the same time as Windows 8/RT, would most likely have killed the market for Windows 8 and RT devices. As it was, that market was already severely diminished and below expectations. But with a viable alternative tablet, it could have been game over.
Is this a good idea?You know Microsoft thought long and hard about this. October of 2014 gives it time to establish Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Phone. Use Office as a carrot to draw customers to its platforms. Then – after two years of Microsoft exclusivity – it drops the Office bomb on those other two mobile platforms.
Sounds good in theory. But, like a lot of Microsoft’s mobile strategies, it makes more sense inside Redmond headquarters than it does anywhere else.
The biggest problem is that Windows Phone and Windows RT aren’t doing much. I speak not of quality, but of underwhelming sales. A lot of good those two years of exclusivity will do Microsoft if its mobile platforms never catch on.
The second biggest problem is that Microsoft’s optimistic view towards its phone and tablet platforms gives competitors time to take aim. Google Docs (Drive) is becoming a more viable option. The search giant has another ace up its sleeve with QuickOffice. Apple might have something cooking with revamped iWork apps.
Let’s not kid ourselves. These Office rivals have a ways to go before putting a real dent in Microsoft’s dominance in the workplace. But that extra year and a half gives them time to give it their best shot. And time moves quickly in this post-PC-plus era.