Microsoft Office for iPhone?

A wave of reports were triggered by a recent hint by Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's business division, that a version of Office is on the way to the iPhone. But exactly what was he talking about?
Last week, Elop participated in a chat-show style session at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. The following exchange occurred while he was talking to Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media.

O'Reilly: I mean, we're not using Office on our iPhones yet.

Elop: Not yet, no, you're not.

O'Reilly: Oh, so is that something that we're going to be doing?

Elop: Just keep watching.

Now, this was in the context of a discussion about Microsoft's "software plus services" strategy.

Elop had just made the point "that the device [iPhone], the operating system on that device, and the rich application, the Facebook app, combined with the service, the Facebook service, the Web-based service, is a better experience all up [than using Facebook in a browser]."

One interpretation is that whatever Microsoft has in mind for Office on the iPhone, it's not just a Safari-optimised version of the Office Web Applications the company has been talking about as part of the Office 14 system.

Nor a completely stand-alone iPhone app along the lines of the recently announced Quickoffice. In this scenario, there will be a iPhone app, but it will hook into the Office Web Applications.

That's OK if your in a country where unlimited wireless data plans are commonplace or free (or cheap) Wi-Fi access is ubiquitous. But if you're paying through the nose for mobile data, it's not so good.

Another reading of Elop's comments is that Microsoft will continue to offer the full-blown versions of Office on our PCs and Macs (and partially blown ones on Windows Mobile devices), and the less capable but still useful and usable Office Web Applications for other devices such as iPhones and Linux-based netbooks. And Linux desktops, come to that.

BY Stephen Withers



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