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At last: Office comes to iPad, a sure sign that the times are changing at Microsoft

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Microsoft(s msft) plans to officially launch the long-awaited version of Office for iPad next week in San Francisco, sources confirmed Tuesday morning.

On Monday, Microsoft notified reporters of an event to be hosted by new CEO Satya Nadella in San Francisco March 27. Topic? “News related to the intersection of cloud and mobile.”

The timing is interesting. The coming-out party is taking place the week before Microsoft’s Build Conference, also in San Francisco, but a day after planned Google(s goog) and AWS(s amzn) cloud events in that city that are drawing reporters from around the country.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO
Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

Reports of this project have circulated for at least two years. Given that Apple(s aapl) schooled Microsoft on tablets with the wildly popular iPad, though — and Microsoft’s former CEO Steve Ballmer once pretended to stomp an  iPhone to death on stage and told reporters he would not allow his children to use Macs or iPhones — support for the rival platform was clearly a risky position to take internally. Up till now, anyway.

This looks to be the beginning of a bigger cross-platform mobile push for Microsoft. CRN reported Monday that Microsoft is in talks to acquire Xamarin, a San Francisco company with technology that enables developers to write iOS or Android code using Microsoft tools.

In a research note, Nomura Securities analyst Rick Sherlund, said this is pretty much all good for Microsoft. While most iPad or Android tablet users are happy with the lightweight apps that run on those devices — Evernote et al. — many are also professionals who rely on business apps, particularly spreadsheets — where Microsoft Excel still rules. Office for iPad — and then probably Android — could keep those users on the reservation — and give them a reason to re-up their enterprise licenses.

Sherlund wrote:

 “To put this in perspective, it is clearly a directional or strategic benefit to Microsoft that the company is moving Office beyond PCs and Windows to faster growth platforms and cloud services.”

To be fair, Microsoft was already pushing pen-enabled tablets well before the iPad debuted in 2010. Former top exec Jeff Raikes was toting tablets  years before he left the company in 2008. But those systems never took hold the way iPad did.

Office, which runs on Windows and Mac OS,  has long dominated the market for desktop productivity applications — spreadsheets, word processing, presentations — but faces heated competition from Google Apps.

Note: This story was updated  at 8:50 a.m. PDT to include analyst quotes and again noting Microsoft’s interest in Xamarin.

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15 Responses to “At last: Office comes to iPad, a sure sign that the times are changing at Microsoft”

  1. Dana Stemo

    Most enterprise users need the ability to create content (e.g. edit a PowerPoint deck) as well as present content effectively. Adding Office to the iPad makes the Apple tablet an ideal platform for content creation in the enterprise mobility arena. In a recent blog series, Mediafly is tackling the mobility Sweet Spot, finding the key features needed for an optimal enterprise mobility device. This first part in the series looks at iPad Mini and Macbook Air as key Sweet Spot contenders.

    • Harvey Lubin


      The first iPhone was introduced on January 9th, 2007:

      The first LG Prada went on sale in May 2007.

      But more importantly, the LG Prada WAS NOT multi-touch, and did not use multitouch gestures!

      The LG Prada used single-touch, just like all of the other single-touch displays that came before it. There were no new technologies in the LG Prada.

      • Harvey Lubin

        The first single-touch, color display mobile phone was the HP iPAQ h6300 in 2004. The LG Prada used the same single-touch technology, but came out 3 years after the HP iPAQ h6300.

        The first multi-touch smartphone was the iPhone, introduced in 2007. Today, almost all smartphones use multi-touch interfaces, following in the iPhone’s footsteps.

        Some manufacturers of those other multi-touch phones have lost court cases for using Apple’s patented without licensing it, while other manufacturers (including Microsoft/Nokia) have licensed those technologies from Apple.

  2. Harvey Lubin

    Barb Darrow: “To be fair, Microsoft was already pushing pen-enabled tablets well before the iPad debuted in 2010. ”

    To be fair, other companies (including Apple and Palm) had pen-enabled tablets well before Microsoft Tablet PCs debuted in 2002.
    (Apple in 1993, and Palm in 1997)

    Also, the iPad is NOT a “pen-enabled tablet” like the Microsoft Tablet PCs or the tablets from the 1990’s.

    The iPad is the FIRST multi-touch tablet, just as the iPhone was the FIRST multi-touch smartphone.

    Comparing the failed Microsoft Tablet PCs to the iPad is ludicrous!

  3. It’s good to see Microsoft serving what’s long been the need of the public. I wonder what the price will be. They can’t go too far about Apple’s prices, which for new iDevice purchasers is zero. Were I them, I’d sell the entire package for $19.95 and go for market share. That’s what they desperately need right now.

    • Harvey Lubin


      When Microsoft Office started to be in use, it had no competitors or alternatives.

      But now, there are MANY available FREE Office-compatible alternatives to Microsoft’s very expensive Office suite. These choices include Google Docs, Apple iWork (including the free iCloud service for web editing and collaboration), FreeOffice, OpenOffice, etc.

      Microsoft Office used to be an expensive necessity, but not any longer.

      • Granville Alley

        To state that when Microsoft Office Started it had no competitors or alternatives is a horrible re-writing of history. Microsoft Office started with MS Word a poor competitor for a dominant WordPerfect and a much larger second place WordStar, MS Excel was a horrid alternative to a dominant Lotus 123, and a still strong 2nd Place Visicalc, MS PowerPoint a poor substitution for Harvard Graphics or even the Lotus 123 Graphing Piece, and MS Access which was competing with a dominant Ashton Tate DBase2 (3 +4) and a second place FoxPro.

        All of this MS Office software was not only not instantly dominant as myth and history re-writes would have it, it was largely very buggy, feature lacking and poor substitutes for the alternatives. MS used its dominant position owning the Windows Operating System ruthlessly and illegally to literally break everyone else’s software with each update, until users were forced often kicking and screaming all the way to adopt the poor substitutes offered by MS (which at least didn’t break for weeks at a time with each new windows update.

        • Rann Xeroxx

          Wow, does a tin foil hat come with that opinion? Did Apple infect Windows CE phones with malware before releasing the first iPhone too? Or maybe both MS and Apple just came out with better products (MS, over time).