The Biggest Reason To Buy A Windows Tablet Is Office. Too Bad It Probably Won't Be Ready On Time

Photo: Business Insider / Matthew Lynley

New evidence suggests that Microsoft will not have a new version of Office ready in time for the anticipated launch of Windows 8 this fall.Today, a Microsoft partner posted screenshots of several Microsoft product roadmaps on Twitter, and Mary Jo Foley reposted them on ZDNet.

According to those roadmaps, Office 15 (a codename) is due for general availability January 2013.

By all accounts, Microsoft is expecting partners to ship the first Windows 8 tablets this fall, in time for the holiday season.

The gap probably won’t affect Office sales to larger businesses, which is where Office makes most of its money.

Most large businesses don’t run out and buy new PCs when a new version of Windows is released anyway. Also, larger businesses tend to buy Office on long-term licence contracts, then upgrade whenever they’re ready. A gap of a few months won’t affect their plans.

But the gap could delay sales among consumers who are looking for a new portable device they can use for work and home. Being able to use a touch-enabled version of Office is one of the few obvious benefits of buying a Windows tablet instead of an iPad.

Microsoft might offer some kind of guarantee program, so people who buy a tablet with Office 2010 this fall get a free upgrade to Office 15 when it comes out.

But even so — it’s a lot more compelling if people can walk into a store, check out a tablet with a touch-optimised version of Office, and walk out with it. That’s probably not going to happen until 2013.

Note that Microsoft has not officially announced release dates for either product, so perhaps Office 15 will actually come out this fall — although it would be almost unprecedented for a product to ship SOONER thanĀ  Microsoft’s internal roadmaps predict.

Or perhaps Windows 8 will be later than expected, and miss the holiday season altogether. That would give the iPad yet another holiday to build on its already huge lead.

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