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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Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer