On more than one occasion I’ve talked about how important Office will be to Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablet strategy.
Strong support for the industry’s standard in productivity software is one of the places that Microsoft can really shine when compared to the iPad or the dozens of Android tablets that have surfaced in the last couple of years.
Part of this strategy has revolved around the idea that Microsoft would include at least basic versions of its Office programs as WinRT-based “Metro” apps. Unfortunately, it seems that Microsoft doesn’t consider this an integral part of their tablet strategy after all.
According to all the persistent rumors out there, Office 15 will NOT have Metro versions, at least not at launch. Supposedly plans to create a true Metro Office experience has been pushed back due to the fact that creating a Metro app for Office would require a complete overhaul of the suite of apps that would take advantage of WinRT.
Doing this would add a bunch of time to the development cycle and so it was decided this wasn’t important.
That being said, Office 15 is being optimized for touch, so that won’t be a problem. What you get as a touch-optimized desktop application, and considering they’ve already confirmed Office 15 will have an x86 and ARM version, this all but confirms that desktop mode for ARM isn’t going anywhere.
So if desktop mode exists, is it really important to have a Metro/WinRT version of Office in the mix? Yes and no. While desktop might exist in both x86 and ARM, it still isn’t as natural to navigate as Metro for touch users.
Additionally, Metro apps are light-weight which means less demands for the processor and the battery. Without a total redesign, there is only so much that Microsoft can do to scale back the demand of resources that a full desktop version of Office will take.
This might not be important for PC users and even x86 tablet owners, but for those with less-powerful ARM processors, it certainly could become a bit of an issue.
At the very least I hope Microsoft creates a functional tile shortcut in Metro that will directly launch Office and its programs without requiring real desktop mode navigation, instead of having to go to desktop and then launching Office.
This does lead us to another big rumor that is now floating around: Windows ARM will have support for desktop mode for things like Office, but will only run and install special ARM certified programs. This will work a lot like signed drivers, so unless Microsoft authorized it, it won’t run.
This would mean that there would be no way to make an ARM application unless you either go through Microsoft’s certification process or you go through the marketplace and create a Metro app.
This actually makes a lot of sense because by limiting ARM desktop applications to just a few ‘select and approved’ titles, it will be easier keep confusion at minimum for users of an ARM tablet.
In other words, Microsoft can explain in an intro video (maybe first time you launch desktop mode?) that only “specially certified ARM programs” will run in this desktop, not just any .exe file you download off the net.
You still have to wonder, even with a restricted/limited desktop mode, how much of a resource hog is Windows 8 for tablets going to be?