Windows 8 on ARM, now dubbed Windows RT by Microsoft, will include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote applications, according to a chart included in a blog by Microsoft posted yesterday.
Inclusion of those Office applications with Windows RT is the latest indication that those applications will be free and included in the software price of a Windows RT tablet, said analyst Al Hilwa of IDC. Hilwa had said as much in February when Windows RT was first announced, even though many doubted that was the case and questioned whether the suite would be truly free or fully functional.
"Well, I stand by my position," Hilwa said in an email Tuesday. "It is clear as daylight [that the Office suite is included in Windows RT]."
Many analysts and corporate IT managers have argued in recent weeks that Microsoft wouldn't give away the valuable Office suite used on desktops -- and worth $100 to $200 or more -- with new tablets running ARM.
However, Hilwa said the move is Microsoft's way of attracting customers to Windows RT tablets, since the software maker hasn't offered a clear competitor to emerging touchscreen tablets running ARM, including the iPad or various Android rivals.
Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said even though the Office suite is pre-installed on Windows RT it's not clear what level of functionality the suite will offer. "I suspect there will be an ARM version of Office [that] is basically an update and renaming of Works, which was free and had similar functionality [as Word and Excel]," Gold said.
"I can't see Microsoft offering a complete feature-for-feature equivalent Office product for free on a low-cost ARM tablet and then charging $300 for an Office version for Intel devices," Gold added. "I still believe Office on Windows RT will be a scaled-back version, rather than full Office.... There are still lots of questions about the capabilities of the device and the names Microsoft is throwing out there."
Gold said he was also confused that the Microsoft chart doesn't mention Outlook for any of the new Windows 8 machines, while claiming support for Exchange/Active Sync. Windows Media Player isn't listed in the chart either, which Gold called a "huge hole.... What will users do for media playback?"
Supporters of Windows RT with Office have been numerous. In February, BoxTone Vice President Brian Reed said many business users "could quickly become tablet users to get to Office apps," a sentiment underscored by CIOs who have built internal applications dependent on the Windows platform.
Windows RT for tablets has opened up doors for some ARM chip makers like Nvidia. "Windows on ARM [now Windows RT] will be hugely successful and is a huge opportunity for ARM," said Lance Howarth, executive vice president of ARM, a UK firm that provides and licenses the design for ARM chips to manufacturers.
Monday's blog by Microsoft spokesman Brandon LeBlanc also disclosed that there will be three Windows 8 editions for Intel and AMD PCs: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise.
The blog did not offer any pricing or release dates for the various Windows 8 editions. Analysts widely believe tablets running Windows RT will emerge late in 2012, and should be priced somewhere between the starting iPad price of $499 and the Amazon Kindle Fire price of$199.
Some comments on the Windows blog questioned Microsoft's use of the Windows RT name, preferring something such as "Windows 8 for Tablets." Still, Microsoft said in February that Windows RT could appear on a variety of form factors beyond tablets, including touchscreen desktops and laptops.
Microsoft didn't immediately respond Tuesday to questions about Windows RT.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.