is reportedly prepping a new version of its Office suite for Android tablets. A tablet-directed version could make users of that platform feel equal to users of the Apple iPad-optimized Office.
On Wednesday, tech site The Verge report that the tech giant is developing a touch-oriented Office for tablets. A basic Office for Android phones was released about a year ago.
Other reports have indicated that the Office for Android tablets version will be available before the end of this year. If the Android version does emerge in 2014, it may beat the touch-optimized Window version of Office, expected by early next year.
Referencing "sources familiar with Microsoft's plans," The Verge said the company is getting a private beta test ready. Users looking to test the new Android tablet version can do so through the Office Pre-Release Programs, the site says, although that Microsoft page does not specifically mention such a product in development.
The iPad version has been designed specifically for that tablet's touch interface, as the Android version is expected to be. When Office for iPad was unveiled in March, CEO Satya Nadella said that the company would be making Office available everywhere, for all devices.
Although he didn't specifically mention Android tablets, most observers took his comments to mean a version for Android tablets was on the way. Later, a Microsoft executive confirmed that intention.
In other Microsoft news, a report in ZDNet earlier this week indicated that the next major version of the Windows operating system, currently codenamed "Threshold," will boot a default screen differently for different devices. A touch-oriented, tile-based version will show up on tablets, for instance, and a desktop environment will appear on desktops/laptops. Hybrids, which can be used as a laptop or a tablet, will boot differently depending on whether a keyboard is active.
A new Windows version could not come too soon for some users. NetMarketshare's statistics, which sample browser traffic to thousands of Web sites, indicates that Windows 8 versions are still not catching on. Only 12.54 percent of Internet-connected users employed version 8 or 8.1 in June -- a drop of 0.1 percent over the previous month.
In comparison, Windows XP, the zombie of operating systems because it is no longer being supported by Microsoft, still has slightly more than 25 percent of users.
Over on the smart watch front, an unnamed source recently told the Tom's Hardware site that Microsoft plans to unveil a smart watch with 11 sensors in October.
It reportedly will work with mobile platforms other than Windows Phone, and is expected to support the measurement and recording of various health/fitness data. If it is health/fitness-oriented, and is released in mid-autumn, it may well run headlong into Apple's expected launch of its multi-sensor, health/fitness monitoring smart watch, also expected for that time.