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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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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
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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.

 
Shane M. O'Neill
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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?
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