Microsoft hints at iPad version for Office 365 with new Personal edition

It'll cost $69.99 per year and allow buyers to install the suite on two devices -- either a MacOS or Windows computer and a tablet

Microsoft will ship a new edition of Office 365 in the spring called Personal, with the announcement phrased in a way that seems to tease the arrival of native editions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iPads and Android tablets.

Office 365 Personal is designed for individual consumers, who will be able to install local versions of the suite applications on one Windows or MacOS computer and on one "tablet," the company said in a blog post Thursday, without specifying what type of tablet.

In the past, Microsoft has been specific in announcements about Office 365 that the suite applications can be installed locally on Windows tablets, but the company is now apparently being purposefully vague, likely to leave the door open for the possibility to install the apps on iPads and Android tablets as well.

Of course, that would imply that by the time this version off Office 365 is ready, Microsoft will have finished working on versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iPads and Android tablets.

Asked for comment, a Microsoft spokeswoman said via email: "I can share that the subscription is available on one Windows tablet, but beyond that, I don't have any other information to share."

Microsoft executives have for months been talking about the company's work on a "touch first" version of Office for Windows tablets, Android tablets and iPads, but they have been unclear about the timetable for the suite. Critics have said that a version of Office specifically for touchscreens is way overdue. It's possible to use Office on Windows tablets, but the suite hasn't been optimized for touch devices.

There is already an Office version for iPhones that requires an Office 365 subscription and there are iOS versions of some Office applications, like OneNote.

Customers who buy Office 365 Personal also receive 20GB of OneDrive online storage and 60 minutes of Skype calling per month to more than 60 countries. The suite will cost $69.99 per year or $6.99 per month.

When it ships, the existing Office 365 Home Premium will be renamed Office 365 Home. That edition, aimed at households, costs $99.99 and lets buyers install the suite applications on up to five different devices, including Windows PCs, MacOS computers and Windows tablets. It also comes with OneDrive storage and Skype voice minutes.

With Office 365 Personal, Microsoft will add another product to the Office 365 family, which critics complain is sold in too many different bundles with a head-spinning array of options and variations.

For example, Office 365 Personal and Office 365 Home Premium are not to be confused with the Office 365 suites that are sold to businesses and that have online versions of servers like Exchange, Lync and SharePoint.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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