After years of rumors, Office for iPad could arrive before the end of the month. Here's what we know.
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A native version of Microsoft Office for iPads is the software equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster: rumored to exist, endlessly discussed, and stubbornly unrevealed. That could all change by the end of the month. According to multiple reports published late Monday, Microsoft will announce Office for iPad on March 27 at an event in San Francisco.
Will the much-anticipated release live up the hype? Here's what we know so far about Microsoft Office for iPad.
1. Office for iPad could be Satya Nadella's first major announcement as CEO. Microsoft issued press invitations late Monday to a March 27 event at which new CEO Satya Nadella will deliver remarks "related to the intersection of cloud and mobile." Citing unnamed sources familiar with Microsoft's plans, Reuters, ZDNet, and The Verge each subsequently reported Office for iPad will debut at the event. A Microsoft representative told InformationWeek the company had no comment regarding the press conference's itinerary or forthcoming Office products.
2. Office for iPad could take cues from Office Mobile. Office for iPad could resemble Office Mobile, according to The Verge. Office Mobile is already available for iPhones, Android smartphones, and Windows Phone devices, though only Windows handsets include the apps out-of-box, without an Office 365 subscription.
Office for iPads could resemble Office Mobile.
3. Office for iPad will earn billions, but Microsoft might have already left billions more on the table. The notion that Office for iPad will earn billions is virtually beyond dispute; a union between the world's most popular productivity software and most popular tablet carries obvious appeal. That said, iPad users have already grown accustomed to free Office competitors, including Google Docs and Apple's iWork suite. Office boasts richer tools than any alternatives, but on a tablet form factor, a deep list of features is arguably less important than the right interface.
Gartner analyst Michael Silver told InformationWeek in an interview last month that Microsoft cannot simply transfer Office's desktop experience to a tablet. "To some extent, I need two applications for each [interface] I use: a touch-friendly one, and then a desktop one for more detailed work," he said.
Forrester analyst David Johnson agreed, pointing out that Office for iPad "needs to be strong in a few areas. What it does, it needs to do great."
Office remains the business standard, especially at larger corporations, and many enterprises will integrate Office for iPad because they've already signed up for Office 365. These forces alone guarantee the product a certain amount of success. But whether Office can be a game changer on the iPad depends on whether Microsoft can appeal to people outside its core corporate audience.
4. Office for iPad might require an Office 365 subscription. Office for iPad might be available only with an Office 365 subscription, according to The Verge's sources. Last week's debut of Office 365 Personal triggered speculation that Office for iPad might be imminent, as the product announcement included ostensibly brand-agnostic references to tablet support. That speculation seems valid now, but it's still not clear if Microsoft also intends any standalone offerings.
5. Office for iPad could negatively affect Windows tablets. Conventional wisdom has held that Microsoft is withholding Office for iPad, which some industry watchers claim has been complete for some time, in order to boost prospects for Windows tablets. This perceived strategy hasn't yet paid off, however, as Windows slates claimed less than 3.5% of the market in 2013. By opening Office to iPad users, Microsoft
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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