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Microsoft Office For iPad: 5 Big Questions

Will the much-anticipated productivity suite, expected to be revealed Thursday, be a hit with customers? Watch these five factors.

how many iWork or Google Docs users will revert back to Office on their tablets, especially if subscription costs are involved. If the product offers clear benefits, that could be one thing. But if it's just a plus-size iteration of Office Mobile, the new product could fall at the lower end of revenue projections.

Still, Microsoft's recent release of OneNote for iOS appears to be a success. It is currently one of the most popular downloads in the app store and has generated better user feedback scores than Apple's own iWork titles. Could this success foreshadow higher-than-expected demand for iPad-optimized Office apps?

4. Will Office for iPads kill Windows tablets?

As mentioned, Microsoft has positioned native Office access as one of Windows tablets' primary advantages over rivals. Despite the tactic, Windows slates continue to sell modestly. With Windows tablets' Office advantage now removed, will we see slowing demand for devices such as the Surface?

Though Windows tablets offer native Office support, the devices only run the software in desktop mode, that is, it's basically a conventional Office experience with some touch controls layered on the top. Reports have claimed Microsoft will follow Office for iPads with new versions for Windows 8.1's Modern UI. Will these apps include features that aren't in the iPad version? Build, Microsoft's conference for developers, will take place in San Francisco during the first week of April. The company is expected to release a Windows 8.1 update and will face pressure to present an improved device strategy.

5. Is Satya Nadella asserting his authority as CEO?

As Microsoft fell further behind Apple and Google in the mobile race, now-retired CEO Steve Ballmer frequently endured criticism from investors and the press. His refusal to speak candidly about Office on iPads, let alone to release actual products, was a fixture in this criticism. As such, Nadella, by deciding to make Office for iPads his first high-profile move, can be seen as forging his own trail.

That said, reports have claimed over the last year that Microsoft's leadership has been hampered by behind-the-scenes squabbling. Notably, ValueAct, which owns a large stake in Microsoft and is thought to oppose to the company's consumer-oriented goals, recently succeeded in placing its president, Mason Morfit, on the Microsoft board. Until Nadella has a few appearances under his belt, it's difficult to say which decisions reflect his new authority, and which reflect changing dynamics among Microsoft leaders.

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Ninja
3/31/2014 | 7:12:47 PM
Still Not a Replacement
People need to keep in mind that every device has its sweet spot.  I agree tablets are "superlative consumption devices."  But even in their own words, can do some "light content creation."  Some industries, legal specifically, think the tablet is magical and want to replace the desktops and laptops with tablets.  That's only going to happen if you retired and simply reading the company newsletter.
Michael Endler
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
3/27/2014 | 6:41:39 PM
Re: 5 little answers to 5 big questions
Interesting answers-- thanks for providing your take!

I found the actual product to be richer in functionality than I'd expected. I wouldn't say "No" to "Is it more than an oversized version of Office Mobile?" That's not to say it's so amazing that everyone will rush out and buy it, but at first brush, it looks more useful than I'd anticipated. I'd been suspicious Microsoft might hang its hat on document fidelity and cut corners here and there, but the company seems serious about delivering a quality iPad experience, and about cross-platform opportunities in general.

Here are my answers:

1.      More than oversized Office Mobile? - Yes

2.      Available without Office 365? - Sort of

3.      Did Office for iPad arrive too late? I'd say "not quite," but we'll see

4.      Will Office for iPad kill Windows tablets? We'll see. On Thursday, Nadella talked about "device innovation" that we'll see at Build.

5.      Nadella asserting authority? Yes, but not because he released Office for iPad. True, he could have held up the release, but the gears were clearly in motion before he took the job. Still, Nadella spoke forcefully, confidently and (at least relative to most Microsoft press conferences) transparently. Also, I found it interesting that he just informally walked onto the stage and started talking-- no introduction or build up or anything. Usually there's more ceremony at the start of these things. I sort of liked the lack of pretense Nadella projected by just wandering out and beginning to talk.

User Rank: Apprentice
3/27/2014 | 6:29:35 PM
5 little answers to 5 big questions
No. Yes. No. Not quite. Yes.
User Rank: Apprentice
3/27/2014 | 9:44:07 AM
Office for iPad will just replace Office Mobile.
"Will Office for iPad be more than an oversized version of Office Mobile?"

"Will Office for iPad be available without an Office 365 subscription?"

Doubtable. Lack of real storage on mobile devices suggests Office for iPad will just replace Office Mobile -- which is, essentialy, just an iOS-compatible front end for Office 365 anyhow -- with more internal controls and, hopefully more applications than just Excel, Word and read/edit-only Powerpoint; all cloud-driven with cloud storage under cloud control (eg, Microsoft E.M.S.) ... in other words: Office 365 for iOS. It will be interesting to see if M$ supports this any better than they did Office for Mac. Welcome to the world of Millennials ... own nothing, rent everything.
User Rank: Strategist
3/26/2014 | 8:14:37 PM
Will Office for iPad be IT's new headache?
Office for iPad will definitely bring productivity benefits to end users. However, it will be at the cost of security. It will be IT's headache to manage users and the content with the release of Office for iPad. A user can now open a secure document using MS Office with no secure return path. After opening the document, the user can then save it anywhere in the device or to any consumer grade public cloud storage (including One Drive) leading to data leaks. 

If security is equally important along with intuitive user interface to create, access and edit Office documents (online and offline), you should check out kiteworks mobile productivity solution. It is a license based enterprise grade solution that also offers PDF annotation features. Furthermore, mobile productivity is part of various collaboration workflow and kiteworks by Accellion offers collaboration features along with mobile productivity capabilities. 
Check out for more info. 
Shane M. O'Neill
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
3/26/2014 | 12:27:29 PM
Nadella looks to the future
If the Office on iPad announcement goes down today, there's no question it's Nadella asserting himself. He's making a decision fairly quickly that Ballmer just wouldn't touch. It shows he's not a slave to the status quo. On top of that, it's the right thing to do. After Windows 8 failed to compete on tablets, it's been clear Microsoft can't rely on the Windows ecosystem anymore. If Surface devices were a blockbuster, this conversation wouldn't be happening. But alas, it's time for something new.

I'll be curious to see how far Nadella is willing to drift off from planet Windows. How soon before we see Office on Android, Windows-Android dual-boot devices and Nokia phones running Android?

Also we can't ignore the negative effects this will have on Surface sales -- a door may open but a few windows will shut (pun very much intended). Add to that the fact that Microsoft is changing the name of its cloud OS from Windows Azure to Microsoft Azure and you have to wonder:

Where will Windows be in 3-5 years?
User Rank: Ninja
3/26/2014 | 11:51:25 AM
Not too late
These are all great questions. The one that strikes me as possibly easiest to answer is whether or not this is coming too late. No, it's not. Yes, there are a lot of alternatives out there, but all of require extra steps and work-arounds if your company environment is Windows / Office centric. If Office for the iPad has the necessary features and creates a seamless experience to edit files between the desktop and the mobile, it will be adopted.
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