Microsoft looking to release Office for Linux in 2014IntroI sit here, basking in heavenly light and bathed in angelic chorus, because I know that 2014 will finally be the year of desktop Linux. How do I know this? Am I the messianic lovechild of Torvalds and Stallman? No — I know it because Microsoft is apparently going to release Office for Linux in 2014.
This rumor stems from a source in Brussels, Belgium, who spoke to Phoronix’s Michael Larabel at FOSDEM, one of Europe’s larger open source conferences. According to this source, who is presumably one of Microsoft’s open source developers, Microsoft is taking a “meaningful look” at releasing a full Linux port of Office in 2014. The sudden change of heart is apparently due to Linux showing “commercial viability,” and because Microsoft is reportedly already working on Office for Android. Android, as you may already know, is a Linux-based operating system, meaning a lot of the porting work will have already been done — it shouldn’t take too much effort to take the next step and bring Office to Ubuntu, or whichever distro Microsoft favors.
Until now, Microsoft has never released a piece of desktop software for Linux (with the exception of Skype, but that was an acquisition). Microsoft does have a Linux department, though, which has mainly been tasked with maintaining Hyper-V (virtualization) compatibility with Linux OSes under Windows. Presumably, with the development of Office for Android, Microsoft has beefed up its number of Linux developers, and those developers will then also work on Office for Linux.
The big question, in my eyes, is whether there’s actually significant demand for Office for Linux. On a good day, Linux has perhaps 1 or 2% of the desktop market. It’s important to remember that almost every Linux distro comes with LibreOffice for free. It’s only an educated guess, but I suspect there are scant few Linux users who would proactively go out and pay for Microsoft Office — after all, many desktop Linux users chose their operating system because it’s free (both in the money sense, and free from the real or perceived Microsoft hegemony).
The other possibility is that Microsoft might be reacting to increased uptake of Linux and cloud-based productivity suites by large institutions, such as universities and governments.