Books written by Ray Sullivan

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Microsoft Office Coming to Android

The one big advantage of Windows 8 loaded on a Microsoft Surface, RT or Pro, is that as well as being a functional tablet computer it runs a version of Microsoft Office.  This productivity is the elephant in the Apple and Android offices.  Sure, both companies are trying to address the issue with bits of apps and opening up their development environment to encourage developers to create solutions, but ultimately Office is Office.

That was one of the compelling reasons why I picked up a Surface RT a week ago and although I've spent more time typing on Google's Blogger interface than on Word I have played a little with the Office 365 applications loaded on the RT and they're refreshing in their familiarity.  The only fly in my personal ointment right now is the lack of a viable print option.  As mentioned in my earlier posting on the RT, Epson haven't developed a driver for my model right now, but as my RT and my Acer laptop are both connected to my Skydrive account I can produce a document on the RT anywhere I want to and then print off from the laptop without physically transferring any files  Not the best solution, but workable in the interim.

However Microsoft are playing one of their famous long games.  They've announced that a version of Office is going to be available for Android machines by producing Office Web Apps for the Google OS.  Don't go searching the Google Play store any time soon, though, as the apps are very much in the concept stage.  It used to be called vapourware in the olden days, but with the stakes high and the resources backing it, I guess this will happen.  Microsoft are talking about a release in maybe twelve months' time, so set your watch, diarise in Outlook if you have access, but forget about Access as that isn't included in this.  Confused? My work is done.

My guess is that Google are getting close, in Microsoft's presumably humble opinion, to producing enough functionality in their own apps to make users consider migrating.  Open Office, the open source office software, should have done that but has failed, however Google is quite persistent at these sorts of things.  What Microsoft probably fears is that Google, with its Chrome browser and entry price Chromebooks might put a visible dent in Microsoft's Windows 8 product and, more importantly, its dominance of the Office software market.  Particularly as Google have indicated that they intend to migrate their Chromebooks to an Android version so that there's compatibility between mobile phones, tablets and their laptops.  That could start to affect the Microsoft dominance in the way that Linux hasn't.

So making Office applications that will allow users to produce Office compatible documents on their Android tablets makes a lot of sense.  It allows users to port documents across devices but will keep the Office dominance centre stage.  I guess many of us will like to draft a Word document on the fly on our tablets, perhaps on the train home from work, but will then transfer it to our computers running full fat Office to top and tail it.  So the Microsoft initiative makes a lot of sense.

Whether it'll stop the Google Juggernaut remains to be seen.  The one year lead in time leaves Google with plenty of time to make their own offerings more appealing, so we have a technical race on. Hold on to your hollyhocks.


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