Is Microsoft Office For iPad For Real?

Microsoft denies it, but a report claims that a version of Office for the iPad is soon to be released. I have my doubts.

The Daily started a stink today with Microsoft over their story claiming that a version of Microsoft Office for the iPad was soon to be submitted to Apple for release in the App Store. Microsoft has denied the claim and I have my doubts about it.

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Office on the iPad makes sense to you if you're an iPad enthusiast. It's a tempting idea and The Daily is emphatic about the story. Microsoft's denial notwithstanding, they stands by the story. They say that the image of the program in the story is a genuine photo of a genuine demo of the genuine program as shown to them by a genuine Microsoft employee. Pretty definitive if true.

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How could it not be true? I'm pulling ideas out of my you-know-what here, but either The Daily is making it up or they're the victim of a hoax or at least some part of it is true. ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley puts forth speculation by others to the effect that:
  • The Daily saw a concept app, not one that will actually be released
  • The app is actually some sort of remote interface to Office running on some other computer, perhaps through OnLive Desktop

[InformationWeek's Eric Zeman rounds up all the claims and counterclaims for Office on the iPad. Click here for the story.]

I've heard this sort of story many times before, like Microsoft porting Office to Linux, that sort of thing. No doubt people in Microsoft experiment with such ideas from a technical and business standpoint, but many of them don't even come close to making it to market. I've always suspected that most stories of this type are wishful thinking; the reporter and/or the person feeding them the tip want it to happen and believe in it and somehow the story becomes that it will in fact happen.

Here's the main reason I think Microsoft will not release anything like a real Office on the iPad: Apple keeps 30% of proceeds from all sales in the App Store. I do understand that 70% of something, and probably a very big number, is bigger than 0% of nothing, which is what Microsoft gets now. Unless they just give it away on the iPad. Yeah, right. Way to preserve the franchise. The only way that's happening is if the apps are crippleware.

And there are plenty of other reasons. I have to think that the Windows people at Microsoft would be furious at the prospect, and Windows still has a bit of clout in the company. Just next week the company will be releasing the Consumer Preview of Windows 8, the version designed for tablets. Why would Microsoft undermine such a potential market with a product release like this? It it's true it's gross mismanagement.

I don't believe that The Daily is making anything up, but we just don't have enough reason to believe the story yet, especially in the face of powerful reasons for Microsoft not to release Office for iPad. Some version of that story may be true, but it can't be as simple as they claim.