Office for iPad may be exactly what Microsoft wants

Microsoft supporters may feel the company gave up an advantage, but in reality, it will gain a great deal from this.

It's endemic of 21st century journalism how this news story broke: a Microsoft product in the Czech Republic spilled the beans on a native iOS and Android port of Office 2013 for March of 2013, which was picked up by the Czech site IHNED. Wash it through Google Translate and all of my peers were very busy today.

In addition to the news leak, The Verge claimed to be in possession of a press release that said Office 2013 will be made available to businesses in December, with a consumer launch scheduled for the end of February 2013, and that Office 365 services and other Office products for mobile (phones and tablets) will be released from March 2013.

Microsoft was quick to issue a denial to the press. "The information shared by our Czech subsidiary is not accurate. We do not have anything further to share at this time."

Translation? They are doing it. Maybe a few facts are off, but they are doing a port. It's not a flat-out denial; it's a claim of inaccuracy. That's all the wiggle room a company needs to avoid being called a liar.

Obviously Microsoft, like every other vendor, wants to control the news and how it gets out. So they aren't going to say "Haha, yeah, you got us. Darn that big mouthed soon-to-be ex-product manager for blowing our surprise." This kind of announcement has to be coordinated with partners and Apple for maximum impact.

However it plays out, it will be a win for Microsoft and another sign that it's finally shedding that intractable Not-Invented-Here mentality of prior decades that made the company so frustrating.

It's an acknowledgement of two facts: the iPad is the tablet of choice at the moment, and the enterprise really likes its tablets. At the Tablet Strategy conference last April, Chris Hazelton from 451 Research said its own research showed 78.4% of companies surveyed allowed employees to bring in their own devices. That contrasts with just 18% of employers actually providing their employees with tablets.

Now, if three quarters of firms are letting people bring tablets to work and are supporting them (451 Research found 68% of companies surveyed had a formal support process in place for tablets), this is a tide that Microsoft wants to ride, not go against. Windows 8 tablets will come with Office apps and Windows Phone 8 devices will come with Office support.

Supporting iOS and Android means no matter what tablet you use, Office will be there. And isn't that what Microsoft wants in the end?

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.