Office For iPad: Why Would Microsoft Bother?

The strong suggestion — as yet unconfirmed by Microsoft itself — is that Microsoft Office For iPad is imminent. Presuming that the reports are accurate, it raises the question: Why would Microsoft port one of its key revenue sources to a competing platform? I can see a couple of reasons why it would make sense. Tablets aren't great for productivity purposes. They're not totally woeful either; I do know journalists who have switched over to writing articles when they're on the go solely on tablets, but when asked if they'd do everything on a tablet, most give me a shocked look. As such, I'm not expecting great things out of Microsoft Office for iPad, either in terms of overall functionality or overall price.

The tablet apps market emerged from the insanely price conscious smartphone market, and as such, if Microsoft slapped the kinds of prices it normally associates with Office onto Office for iPad, the outcry will be immense. Heck, even if they offer Office at the kinds of discount prices that are normally offered to educational institutions, I'd expect some folks to moan, simply because anything that isn't free seems to be fodder for their inbuilt groaning mechanisms.

So Office for iPad is unlikely to be even a shadow of the money-spinner that Office for... well, Offices is. So why do it?

I can see two key advantages for Microsoft in developing an iPad version of Office. Firstly, there's the obvious fact that the more people using Office on a portable device, the more people will use Office on the desktop, where all the big fat profit margins lie. Sure, in many cases that's not a matter of choice — you'll use whatever's supplied by your employer in any case, and that's most likely to be Office anyway. Office for iPad becomes something of a value-added proposition in that scenario.

It's not as though Microsoft is a complete newcomer to the iOS productivity apps world; OneNote for iOS has been available for some time. Although in the case of OneNote, Australians had to endure a six month wait for it to become available for no readily apparent reason. Hopefully if the rumours of Office for iPad are true, we won't have another half-year wait for it.

There's another, more subtle reason why Office for iPad makes sense, and it's to do with making Microsoft money, even if it's not going to make much on the apps themselves. We know that ARM-based Windows 8 tablets are on the way, and Office is the one application that Microsoft's said will be compatible with Windows 8 from day one. Indeed, the only time you'll see the desktop on a Windows 8 tablet will be when you're using Office applications.

Getting touch right for productivity applications is, as I stated in the introduction, a tricky affair, and one that can benefit from fine-tuning. What better way to make sure that the version of your productivity suite for your own tablets is as slick as possible than by releasing it for a competing platform and taking in all the user feedback to apply to your own version? To take that idea a slightly more Machiavellian direction, you could even use what you learn from the iPad version of Office to ensure that the Windows 8 tablet version is markedly better, making it a more attractive prospect.


Comments

    Where this train of thought derails is in the fact that Office for WinPhone has been around for a while now, so they probably have all that user data accumulated already. Its the only version of Office I own, yet Microsoft are more than happy to let me use theirs via the cloud, any time I like. You'd be surprised how handy that is when idiots send me .docx files. SO MS are already giving it away. This is just a broadening of that, no doubt to appease the millions of Office licenses on Mac. (I can't remember the last time I saw a Mac that didn't have Office on it, it almost seems like OEM.)

      True, but that's user data specific to phone versions; I'd hope that a tablet-optimised version of Office wasn't just the phone app scaled up. That would make for a less than optimal experience.

    "Why would Microsoft port one of its key revenue sources to a competing platform?"

    Office for Mac?

      But this would be a new port; Office for Mac has an insanely long history, is already an existing product, etc. A new port costs money to make.

    I've had a lot of customers after Office for iPad, a futile request until this news popped up. Of course most Android tablets seem to come with an office suite of some kind anyway...

    i kinda feel like you're missing the point...
    tablets are, for better or worse, a new part of the business world. more and more companies are using them. it pays to add document editing to the list of its capabilities.

    in that market, Microsoft and Mac aren't direct competitors. Google is more the adversary in this department.

    we have people who want to explore the 'wang'-factor at our work, however these tablets are used more for document editting, rather than composing whole new reports. in that sense, it's not bad. Give it integration in office 365, and you've got a real bread-winner there (the revenue model would most likely follow Microsofts 'CAL' mdoel)

    I think the key is that people aren't going to want to pay for a full retail copy of Office on a Windows 8 tablet. The App store has ruined that prospect for Microsoft. Windows 8 tablets are competing with the iPad even though they run a full OS.

    I think what Microsoft will do is release a cut down version (similar functionality to the web apps) on iOS AND in the Windows 8 Marketplace.

    Then they will continue to push the full experience for homes and businesses.

    Check out Engadget as they have an update or two about this story.
    http://www.engadget.com/2012/02/21/microsoft-says-office-for-ipad-story-is-based-on-inaccurate-rum/

    you know what'd be great? over-the-cloud syncing of office documents, like google docs. a collaboration feature like gdocs would be fantastic too, but that's beside the point

      You mean SkyDrive? It is available on iOS as well.

    are you kidding why port it over ? think of how many people have ipads nearly all my family members and friends, the one question i get often is there word or powerpoint for ipad ? i reckon Microsoft will make more money with office on ipad than windows 7 :P

    This could be something that they are doing as a test for their own tablet (Win8) when it arrives later this year. Slap it on to the iPads, see how it is received and use that information and design of that programme for the Win8 Tablets.

    I use the iWork apps (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) on my iPad regularly (even on my iPhone from time to time).
    I think they are great, use them for writing short reading responses (for my Uni classes), tweaking documents when I out and about.

    I almost never use my Mac for documents any more unless I need inDesign etc.

    I think Microsoft needs to release Office for iOS if they wish to remain relevant in the tablet and phone market, but unless they price it at the same or lower price than the iWork apps then there is unlikely to be any compelling reason to purchase it.
    I know I wont purchase Office ever again (on any platform).

    Microsoft is not a computer company, it's a software company. They make software. Get it? Why wouldn't they want their software on the iPad? I can't see the iPad version replacing the desktop/laptop version. But more for portability and maybe quick adjustments whilst on site or down on the factory floor. You know, real life everyday kind of work that the iPad is supposed to improve?

    Cause Microsoft isnt a giant evil company?

    Cause it will make them money in the long run?

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