Office to Be Included with “Small Screen” x86 Windows 8 Tablets
A major selling point of tablets running ARM-based Windows RT was that Office, Microsoft’s flagship productivity software, was included for free. The company oddly chose not to extend the same offer to x86-based Windows 8 tablets, including its own Surface Pro. Those devices could still run Office, of course, but users had to purchase the software in addition to the cost of the hardware. At Computex last night, however, Microsoft Windows chief Tami Reller announced a change in policy… at least for some Windows 8 tablet buyers.
According to Ms. Reller, and a follow-up blog post, “small screen” x86 tablets “will come with Office Home and Student 2013 right out of the box.” One of the new initiatives for Microsoft is to expand Windows 8/RT to small form factor tablets, similar to the market currently controlled by the Amazon Kindle Fire, Apple iPad mini, and Google Nexus 7. These 7-to–8-inch tablets have exploded in popularity over the past year and Microsoft is shifting focus with updates such as Windows 8.1 to address that segment of the market.
Offering the valuable Office productivity suite for free on these smaller devices is certainly an easy way for Microsoft to increase their appeal, but it’s yet another confusing move that may alienate early adopters who shelled out big bucks to purchase full-size Windows 8 tablets.
The first Windows 8 “mini” tablets are being announced at Computex, including Acer’s Iconia W3, with more devices expected in the second half of the year. Consumers will have to wait and see how Microsoft’s hardware partners handle and market the Office advantage.
Despite the confusion over the Windows 8 Office deal, Microsoft announced a piece of universally positive news. As mentioned above, Windows RT tablets include Office, but do not come with an ARM-based version of Outlook, the company’s email, calendar, and contact management application. Microsoft revealed during the same Computex presentation that Outlook RT will be included with Windows RT tablets as part of the update to Windows 8.1:
We know that the addition of Outlook for those using ARM-based Windows devices…has been a popular request from consumers and businesses alike. As Tami said in her keynote address, we’ve listened and Outlook will be joining the other Office applications currently available on Windows RT, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.
Windows 8.1. (a.k.a “Blue”) will be released as a public preview during Microsoft’s BUILD conference at the end of June, with a final release available for free to all Windows 8 users by the end of the year.