Microsoft is believed to be working on Office Mobile for iOS and Android, and are due to be released early next year, but rather than helping Apple or Google, this could be just what Microsoft and Windows Phone 8 has been waiting for.
Speaking to The Verge, multiple sources within Microsoft have said Office Mobile will debut as a suite of free applications letting Android and iOS users view Office documents online, and the apps will require a Microsoft account.
While viewing Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents will be free, editing them will apparently require an Office 365 subscription, which can be purchased within the mobile apps and will let users edit their documents and save changes to the cloud.
It is believed that mobile Office apps will arrive on iOS in late February or early March, and an Android version is due in May.
Branching Office out to include iOS and Android could be just what Microsoft needs, and more importantly, just what Windows Phone 8 needs.
Let us explain.
No matter how good Windows Phone 8 is (and we like it a lot), it is always going to be an uphill struggle to tempt the hundreds of millions of iOS and Android users away from their smartphones and tablets.
However by giving them a sample of the Windows Phone experience in the form of Office Mobile, Microsoft could well convince some to make the switch.
It is similar to PC users switching from Media Player to iTunes, then going out and buying an iPod, and before they knew it they were a fully paid-up member of the Apple club.
Microsoft could use Office and potentially Xbox Music to give consumers a flavour of what it has to offer - but to get more they'd need to make the switch to Windows Phone 8.
Once there, Microsoft can then offer the Surface tablet and a Windows 8 computer to compliment their WP8 smartphone - and of course, just as with an iTunes account, their Microsoft account will work with every device, and all of their data will be saved to SkyDrive.
We accept that Mobile Office isn't as fun as iTunes, but if Microsoft can throw in iOS and Android versions of Xbox Music - providing Apple and Google will allow it - then we can see some momentum being made.
Microsoft has already said that its new Rooms app will share some features with Android and iOS devices, providing members of the room are linked together by a Windows Phone 8 user, so we don't think it will take long for the WP8 word to spread.
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