Will the much-anticipated productivity suite, expected to be revealed Thursday, be a hit with customers? Watch these five factors.
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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Thursday will deliver his first press presentation since taking the company reins. Officially, Microsoft has said only that the event will be "related to the intersection of cloud and mobile," but a variety of sources have claimed, citing anonymous insiders, that a native version of Office for iPads will finally debut.
By finally opening the world's most popular productivity suite to the world's most popular tablet, Microsoft likely stands to make billions. But given the company's size, resources, and industry stature, huge Office revenue streams are par for the course. Microsoft's greatest challenge isn't making money, but rather positioning Office to be as dominant in today's consumerized mobile landscape as it was during the PC's heyday.
What does Microsoft need to bring to the tablet to make Office for iPad a smash? Assuming the much-anticipated productivity suite appears this Thursday as expected, here are five things to watch.
1. Will Office for iPad be more than an oversized version of Office Mobile?
At least one report claims Office for iPads will resemble Office Mobile, which comes pre-installed on Windows Phone devices but requires an Office 365 subscription for full access on iPhones and Android handsets. The iPad is a superlative consumption device that can also handle light content creation, which puts pressure on Microsoft to find the right blend between Office's historical feature richness and iOS's intuitive, simple user experience. Office Mobile certainly hasn't hurt Office 365 sign-ups, which continue to grow among both businesses and consumers. But the lightweight mobile apps haven't driven growth so much as enhanced the larger Office 365 package, making it unclear whether Office for iPads will be a disruptive force, or merely an extension of ongoing momentum.
2. Will Office for iPad be available without an Office 365 subscription?
Earlier this month, Microsoft announced Office 365 Personal, an individual-oriented package that will provide full Office access on one PC and one tablet for $6.99 per month or $69.99 annually. Many perceived the upcoming subscription service as evidence that a native version of Office for iPads was imminent. As part of Office 365, Office for iPads will generate billions from corporate uptake alone; iPads are ubiquitous in the enterprise and many businesses are already embracing to Office 365, so Office for iPads can only sweeten what has already proved a tempting offer. But consumers have arguably driven iPad popularity more than businesses, and it's not clear how many average tablet users will sign up for individual Office 365 accounts. Will Microsoft also offer standalone versions of iPad Office apps? Will the apps include limited functionality, such as document review, for free? Given that Microsoft feels Office must become more social and collaborative, could standalone apps provide enough value, or will users need the cloud to enjoy the biggest benefits?
Will Office for iPads be more than a larger version of Office Mobile?
3. Is it too late?
There are ostensibly two reasons Microsoft has taken this long to release Office for iPads: it's likely taken a lot of time and effort to translate the applications to a touch-first interface; and by limiting native Office access to Windows tablets, Microsoft hoped to secure an advantage over its mobile rivals.
But as Microsoft has dragged its feet, tablet users have grown accustomed to a variety of free alternatives. Given that tablet productivity is unlikely to fully replace mouse-and-keyboard productivity in the first place, it's unclear
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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