Office 2013 signals Microsoft is betting on cloud, touch and tablets

July 17, 2012

Microsoft took a big step Tuesday with its next version of Office, saying that it will base the lucrative software in the cloud first and then make the entire suite capable of touch navigation.

The move not only brings Microsoft a new model for Office but also gives the company’s tablets and phones a significant point of leverage for enterprise customers.

Microsoft is facing pressure from other cloud-based office software suites — most notably from Google. But Microsoft’s decision to keep Office on its tablets and phones is a big incentive for consumers to take a serious look at Microsoft’s Surface tablet and smartphones that run Windows Phone 8.

After all, Office accounts for roughly 60 percent of the company’s profits, according to Microsoft’s last earnings report. PCWorld reports that while the company has said it is offering a Mac version of the latest Office incarnation — not that chief executive Steve Ballmer mentioned that during Monday’s presentation — it hasn’t said anything about an iOS version for the iPhone or iPad. Nor has it mentioned an Android version, for that matter.

Accessing Office in the cloud is going to be platform-agnostic, but having Office on the go when you’re not connected to the Internet is a huge selling point for business customers.

In other words, Microsoft has thought about this.

“This is clearly a process that is several years in the making and should be seen as a huge bet the company is making to usurp the disruptive innovation brought about by touch screens and cloud services,” IDC analyst Al Hilwa said in an e-mail Monday. “The touch bet is pivotal to Microsoft’s long-term relevance in computing as a whole, and may hold the key to Microsoft’s next decade of success.”

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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