Rumors of a version of Office for Apple iPads get more and more specific, with the latest claiming that the software will launch Nov. 10.
The Windows Mobile group has finished its efforts on the software and passed it on to the company's design group, according to a story in The Daily. Once Microsoft is done with the package, it would have to be vetted by Apple before it goes on sale in the App Store, the story says.
If true, the rumor means that iPads will be better able to compete with upcoming Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets for enterprise business. Windows 8, which can run on x86 tablets, supports the full Office suite and Windows RT supports four out of the six applications that make up Office. At the moment, iPads don't support Office at all.
With businesses already making accommodations to allow employees to use their iPads at work, the addition of Office to the devices would only enhance their attractiveness. The suite will enable more job-related activities and integration with corporate workflow.
That seems like it would be a downside for Microsoft, taking a way what would otherwise be a differentiator for its upcoming tablets. If it is shooting itself in the foot, it may be aiming for both feet. Boy Genius Report has written that Microsoft also has an Office version in the works for Android.
A new end user licensing agreement (EULA) that Microsoft has put together will ban customers from bringing class-action suits against the company about the products they apply to.
It's not clear yet whether this will affect Windows 8, but Windows 8 sounds like a good candidate for it.
A blog by Tim Fielden, Microsoft's assistant general counsel, says the company has already applied the provision to Xboxes and plans to extend it to other products.
Fielden says the company will bargain with customers individually to settle their complains and submit to arbitration, but draws the line at class-action lawsuits.
He cites a case decided last year by the U.S. Supreme Court that makes such provisions binding. In that case, AT&T Mobility inserted a no-class-action provision in its EULA. The provision was also inserted after customers had already accepted an earlier version of the EULA that allowed it to make unilateral changes to the agreement.
Apple chief continues anti-Windows 8 drumbeat
After memorably comparing Windows 8 to a toaster that is also a refrigerator, Apple CEO Tim Cook kept up his assault on Windows 8 tablets this week at the All Things Digital conference.
"Products are about tradeoffs, and you have to make tough decisions, you have to choose," he says in a highlight video posted by the conference, "and the fact is the more you look at a tablet as a PC the more the baggage from the past affects the product."
He didn't mention Windows 8 tablets by name, but what else could it be? Microsoft conscientiously calls any machine running Windows 8 a PC, even the Windows RT devices that run on low-powered ARM chips that will certainly include tablets.
That's where Cook and Microsoft disagree. "In my view, the tablet and the PC are different," he says. "You can do things with the tablet if you are not encumbered by the legacy of the PC." He never gets around to detailing what those things are.
But he gives Apple's iPad credit for revolutionizing tablets. "We didn't invent the tablet market," he says. "It was there. We invented the modern tablet."
And tablets will become more popular than PCs ever did, he predicts. "I really believe, and I believed this from the beginning: This isn't some revelation from the last week or so, that the tablet market would eventually surpass the PC market," Cook says. "I think everybody in the beginning kind of heard that and laughed that off and said, 'No way.'"
Brit schools hedge on Windows 8
PC Pro reports that schools in the U.K. are holding off buying new tablets until they get the chance to put Windows 8 through its paces.
Their motivation is protecting the investment they have already made in Windows software. If they buy iPads or Android tablets instead, they will lose the ability to use Windows applications already in use, the PC Pro story says.
That's not the only reason for caution, though. Some schools are waiting for the government there to endorse use of tablets in schools, 85% are concerned about management and security of the devices and 71% are concerned about having to buy and install new applications for them, the report says.
Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene.
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