Microsoft is making a big mistake. Assuming the leaked Office 'Gemini' roadmap is both legitimate and accurate, it appears that neither Outlook RT nor Office for iOS and Android will arrive any time soon. By the time they do, it's possible nobody will care.
Mary Jo Foley--a respected and reliable source of inside information from Redmond--shed some light today on what we can expect from the Microsoft Office team. According to a leaked roadmap, Office RT apps will be available this fall alongside the expected launch of Windows "Blue", followed by a refresh of the Office RT apps, and a new version of Office for Mac in early 2014.
The last bit of the leaked roadmap is the perplexing part, though. The highly-anticipated Office for iOS and Android apps and Outlook RT apparently won't arrive until late 2014--yes, a year and a half from now.
If the information is accurate, Microsoft is missing a huge opportunity. By the end of 2014, Windows RT may not even exist if it doesn't start gaining some traction. The Mail client on Windows RT is OK, but it's not Outlook. The CEO of Nvidia, for one, recently blamed anemic sales of Windows RT tablets at least partially on the lack of an Outlook RT app.
As for the Office apps on iOS or Android? That market may dwindle considerably by the end of 2014. Users will simply invest in alternate productivity apps in the absence of any options from Microsoft.
I attempted to confirm the information from the alleged "Gemini" roadmap with Microsoft. A Microsoft spokesperson replied simply, "We don't have any information to share about the next set of updates to Office."
Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, points out, "Assuming it is accurate, I can only assess that Microsoft doesn't feel that the iPad and any of the productivity options already on the iPad, pose any sort of threat to Office. I'm not sure I agree, as users who do need to generate content while on the go will either not use their iPad (beneficial to Microsoft) or not use Office (not beneficial to Microsoft)."
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has gone on record stating that Microsoft doesn't need to develop iOS or Android apps for Office, because those users can work with Office through the browser. While that is technically true, Ballmer is wrong. Native apps provide a better experience and work offline as well.
Analysts claim that Microsoft is potentially leaving billions of dollars of revenue on the table by not offering Office for iOS and Android. The question Microsoft needs to consider is whether it's worth surrendering billions in revenue, and possibly eroding the dominance of Microsoft Office in the hope that it will drive sales of Windows PCs and mobile devices.
Maybe the Office "Gemini" roadmap is fake or outdated. We can hope.