It's clearer to me now that developments in Office Online are going to be key to the coming Windows 8 Modern UI Office Touch apps, also known as Office Blue or Office Gemini. I must say, it's easier to say Office Gemini than it is to pause and struggle with what to call Office...uh...Touch, (for want of a clearly defined name.)Let me define a few things first. Office is currently available:
- OnDesktop - installed on your Windows or Mac Desktop.
- OnApp - Office for iPad, Office Mobile (Hub App) for Windows Phone, iPhone and Android phones.
- Online - in your browsers via Office Online/OneDrive, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. Office Online brings us the InBrowser experience. Office Gemini will be the InApp experience.
Interesting twist there, Office for iPad being the guinea pig for Office Touch on Windows. Will Office Touch be an improvement on Office for iPad, to give the Windows apps a competitive advantage? I wonder if the difference between Office for iPad and Office Touch for Windows will be like the difference between Apples and Oranges.
I've always found it interesting reading conversations about applications and apps. Applications in a local computing sense are software that is locally installed and runs in the desktop environment. Locally installed Apps are software running in the touch-friendly environment, be it Windows Modern UI, IOS or Droidville.
At Microsoft Exchange Conference, a Garage episode talked about how the OWA app for IOS was built on the same code as the browser experience. The advantage of this is only a single code base needs to be maintained and upgraded. Updates become easier and faster to deploy. We are also seeing significant changes in Office Online, the InBrowser applications closing the gap to OnDesktop level of functionality. Office Online will receive features that their OnDesktop counterparts wont have. It will cater to a different, connected style of working in the browser. Microsoft call this "Working like a network."
But I also believe that changes to Office Online are being made to prepare and position for a close relationship with Windows Office Touch apps, Project Gemini. Just like the OWA app, I think Office Touch apps will probably be based on the same code as Office Online. Updates will be easier to deploy. The experience between InBrowser and InApp will be similar. The advantage of the Office Gemini apps will be to provide a better and more responsive touch experience than the InBrowser experience. Maybe this is why Office Touch has been a long time coming. Office Online needed to be readied and proven.
I like where this is going. Browser-First. Online first. OnDesktop as a secondary option for more complex local processing. This may help make the dream of Free Office and free Windows a reality as Microsoft continues forward in the devices and services direction.