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Office for Android and iOS to ship by March 2013?

Maybe, but not in the sense you're hoping for

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A product manager for Microsoft's Czech division may have let the cat out of the bag on Wednesday – almost – when he announced that versions of Microsoft Office for Android and iOS devices may ship as early as the first quarter of next year.

After spotting a report on the Czech site IHNED, The Verge was first to cite Microsoft product manager Petr Bobek as saying that Redmond plans to unveil versions of Office for Android and iOS in March 2013.

But while your Reg correspondent's Czech is a little rusty – all right, nonexistent – Google Translate's actually isn't bad, and a read of the robo-translated IHNED article fails to reveal such definite dates. All it appears to say is that Office 2013 will be launched in the first quarter of 2013, and that Microsoft will gradually publish versions for other platforms after that.

So it's a non-story? Frank X. Shaw of Microsoft's corporate communications department seemed to think so, having issued the following terse smackdown via Twitter:

When El Reg reached out to the Redmond home office for clarification, however, the response wasn't quite so categorical. "We have nothing to announce today about retail availability of the new Office," a Microsoft spokesperson said in reply. "As we shared previously, Office Mobile will work across Windows Phones, Android phones and iOS, and we have nothing additional to announce."

Refreshingly, for a non-response response this actually yields some information. It appears that yes, we will be seeing official Office products coming for Android and iOS at some point in the future. But it will be Office Mobile that ships for those platforms, not the full Office 2013 suite, and it will be aimed at phones, not tablets.

Forgive us for being a little disappointed. Microsoft has promised a full-featured version of Office 2013 that will run on Windows RT–powered devices like its upcoming Surface line, so we know that it's at least theoretically possible to port the suite to devices with ARM processors and large touchscreens, like Android tablets and the iPad.

Office Mobile, on the other hand, has never been much better than any of the various third-party Office document viewers and editors that can be found in the Android and iOS app stores today.

Still, it's an encouraging sign that Microsoft seems committed to releasing apps for mobile platforms other than Windows Phone, as it has already done with such products as SkyDrive and OneNote.

As for whether the Office Mobile apps for Android and iOS will launch by the rumored March 2013 date, however, that seems possible but unlikely.

So far, the closest thing to a launch date for Office 2013 we've heard is for the Windows RT version, which will ship when Microsoft debuts its Surface devices on October 26. But even that version will only be a preview release; the final version of Office 2013 RT isn't scheduled to appear until a few months later.

So while Bobek's comments seem to confirm that the full version of Office 2013 for the Intel architecture will ship in the first quarter of 2013, it might be safer to assume that means March, rather than January. To expect Microsoft to deliver new Office software for non-Windows platforms before then sounds like wishful thinking to this hack. ® 

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