Get ready, iOS and Android device owners. Microsoft may be readying its Office suite for you. Online reports circulated Wednesday that Microsoft product manager Petr Bobek confirmed native iOS and Android versions of the popular business
productivity applications will be released for those platforms in March of next year.
His comments were initially reported Wednesday by the Czech site IHNED, which quoted Bobek's comments at a recent press event in the Czech Republic.
There have also been Web reports that a press release from Microsoft's Czech office confirmed the news, although the actual press release has not been presented online. The release reportedly said that Office 2013 for those platforms will become available for businesses in December of this year, followed by a consumer launch in February.
Officially, however, Microsoft's Frank X. Shaw, head of corporate communications, tweeted on Wednesday a statement that the "information shared by our Czech subsidiary is not accurate," and added that "we do not have anything further to share at this time."
Some Microsoft watchers have contended that "not accurate" does not completely deny the possibility of native versions for iOS and Android, since it could refer to some erroneous detail, such as release dates.
A version of Office for the iPad in particular has been rumored for months, and there have been reported sightings of a purported working prototype. Those rumors contend that Office for iPad will be a full-featured version, not one stripped down for the tablet.
Another eyebrow-raising issue, assuming the Office suite of applications for iOS and Android is released in first quarter of next year, is the timing.
Tablets and convertible laptop/tablets models, using either Windows 8 or Windows RT, are now rolling out, and the holiday season is expected to witness a variety of devices based on Microsoft's newest OS. Apple's iPad, by far the category's king, has been considered by some to be more of a consumption device and less of a productivity tool, at least in part because Microsoft Office, widely used by anyone looking to get work done, is not available for that platform.
So why would Microsoft boost the fortunes of its tablet rival, which owns the category that the company is trying to break into, just as its rolling out its own tablet platform?
One line of thought is that Microsoft sees Office continuing as its cash cow, and that the Redmond, Wash.-based technology giant wants to protect its application turf on iOS and Android, even if it's missed the boat so far on the operating-system turf.
Another possibility: It could turn out that Office versions for iOS/Android tablets and smartphones will not actually be full-featured, while ones for Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets will be.