Microsoft says touch-first Office will come to platforms like iOS and Android

Microsoft’s ambling route to becoming a devices and services company is becoming more understandable.

In the days before the company’s Surface 2 launch, and a day after their Financial Analysts Meeting, revelations about a touch-first Office have been made apparent. For starters, Microsoft is planning to bring a “Metro-style” Office app to Windows 8 and RT. Yes, even though Office 2013 is slightly optimized for touch screens, we’re talking about a touch-first app with big action areas and likely a smaller, simpler feature set.

But when asked about other platforms, Qi Lu, the Microsoft’s EVP of Applications and Services said, “We are working on touch-first versions for our core apps in the Office suite, Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and we will bring these apps to Windows devices, and also to other devices in ways that meets our customers’ needs, and the customer value of those experiences, and in ways that economically make sense for Microsoft, and at a proper timetable.”

The source of this information, Paul Thurrott’s WinSupersite, emphasizes that only Office for iPad is currently in the cards, but it’s likely Android tablets will have their own version. In the meantime, Microsoft is keeping fully-fledged Office to itself, for Windows 8 and Windows Phone, while iOS and Android phones have pared-down versions for Microsoft 365 subscribers.

Despite rumours to the contrary, these versions will unlikely come to market before the middle of 2014, and the Android version is probably going to come way after iOS. Google likely saw this coming as it just yesterday made Quickoffice, a tablet-optimized app capable of editing Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents, free for its users on Android and iOS.

Whether Office for iPad or Android tablets will still be relevant — or necessary — but the time they’re released is a question Microsoft is likely grappling with, but it appears that Google and Apple independently have their own solutions to deal with its absence.