Last summer, Microsoft released a mobile-only Android version of its Office suite for smartphones running Android 4.0 or later. The download required an Office 365 subscription as there was no free version offered. In March of this year Microsoft experienced an epiphany and made a smartphone version - a fully functional one - available for free. Still, no tablet version was thought to be in the works.

That was then. This is now.

What once wasn't, now is. Microsoft has now indicated that a tablet version of Office for Android is in development, with possible release in early 2015.

It stands to reason after the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Microsoft's release of Office for iPad (over 27 million downloads so far, with a free read-only version and a paid edition in which document creation and editing are enabled), combined with the growing Android audience that Microsoft would make it happen for Android tablets.

Like the iPad version, Office for Android tablets will include Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications.

Microsoft is also working on Office for Windows tablets. While it may seem that this would be the company's first priority, especially given the debut of their Surface tablet and their sincere attempt to capture a larger share of the tablet market, the reality that confronts them is that is and will be for some time, an Android and Apple tablet universe. Thus the release of Office for iPad and Office for Android tablet precedes Office for Windows tablet. There's precedent for this. In recent years, Microsoft has habitually updated Office for Mac prior to updating Office for Windows.

Of course, Microsoft has a bigger target in sight; the promotion of mobile and tablet versions of Office for other platforms is hoped to drive the purchase of Office 365 for Windows and Mac desktops and laptops.

Although the smartphone version of Office for Android (officially Microsoft Office Mobile) is now gratis, it is not yet foreseen if the tablet edition suite will follow suit. Microsoft may offer the package as part of a deal that includes enhanced OneDrive (their cloud platform) service.

The major difference between the smartphone version and the forthcoming tablet version will be the latter's increased touch-screen functionality. Other than that, expect most of the same features that the smartphone edition already includes.

Microsoft is soliciting the assistance of beta testers for the proposed new software package. Interested parties may go to this site to enlist.

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