Office on the iPad release shows Microsoft's #1 enemy is Google, not Apple

The expected release of Microsoft Office on the iPad within the next several weeks is a sign that Microsoft has targeted Google as its primary competitor, not Apple. There's no evidence that Office on Android is in the works, but a screenshot surfaced today showing it running on the iPad.

The Daily today showed a screenshot of Office on the iPad in action, and the reporter who posted the story said that he had "a brief hands on" with it. He said that the interface resembles the current iPad OneNote app, and "has hints of Metro." It has versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but it's not clear if any other Office apps are in the works. Files "can be created and edited locally and online."

The article gave no release date, but said that because the design is finished, the app "could be released in the coming weeks."

The article also claimed that "Sources close to the matter also commented that an Android version of Office is not in the works."

That makes it clear: Google, not Apple, is Public Enemy #1 at Microsoft. There are other signs of that as well. The war of words between Google and Microsoft has been getting particularly nasty, with sometimes-vitriolic exchanges between the two companies over Google's privacy issues and about whether Microsoft is trying to kill Android using its patent portfolio.

But it's a mistake for Microsoft to release a version of Office for the iPad and not for Android. Windows is no longer Microsoft's cash cow, and if Microsoft is to succeed, it needs to compete on all platforms, including all major mobile ones. Android is the most popular mobile operating system, and so Microsoft should be competing there.

Releasing an Android version of Office could also help fend off competition from Google Docs. If you use Android and want an app that works with Office, you can use the free Google Docs. There are several developers that have released apps that work with Office files as well. Right now the Google Docs app on Android isn't particularly well-done. But eventually Google will get it right. People may get used to Google Docs on Android, and decide to make the move to Google Docs on Windows as well. So Microsoft could gain a good deal by releasing Office versions for Android --- a free one that reads Office files, and a for-pay one that allows for editing, and that syncs with Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service.

For now, that's clearly not in the works, because Microsoft apparently considers Google too dangerous a competitor to cooperate with the company.

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