Everyone seems to be in agreement that Microsoft (MSFT) needed to do it. Microsoft Office for iPad had to be a thing.
And now it will be.
Many of the 200 million or so people who use Apple’s (AAPL) tablets — especially those who use iPads for mobile work — would love to have the option to use Microsoft’s productivity suite. Meanwhile, with the PC market shrinking, MSFT shareholders were looking for solutions to prevent the Office cash cow from running dry.
Well, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella used his first public presentation today to solve both issues, announcing that the Microsoft Office for iPad will be a very real thing.
Microsoft Office & the Apple iPad: Together at Last!
Microsoft’s reluctance under then-CEO Steve Ballmer to release the ubiquitous Microsoft Office for the iPad has been one of the great mysteries of the tablet age. After all, Microsoft had never balked at releasing Office for the Mac — despite the fact that Mac sales cut into Windows sales.
Sure, maybe it had something to do with giving Microsoft’s own Surface tablets a competitive edge. Apple’s insistence on taking a 30% cut of apps might have had something to do with it too.
And sure, Office Online — which lets iPad users collaborate on Office documents on MSFT’s OneDrive — has been offered. But that’s very different from an actual app with full Office functionality, online and offline.
Which is why it took just minutes in today’s presentation — “the intersection of cloud and mobile” — for Microsoft Office for iPad to take center stage.
Word, Excel and Powerpoint will be in the iTunes App Store later today. Microsoft says you can download them for free, and this will get you the ability to read Office files. However, iOS 7 is required.
To edit and create, iPad owners will need to buy (or already have) an Office 365 subscription.
That approach neatly prevents Apple from scooping up a chunk of MSFT money, although AAPL will undoubtedly benefit from finally having Microsoft Office for iPad — especially in the enterprise market.
And that delay in releasing Microsoft Office for Apple’s tablets? It was never really addressed, other than an attempt to make it sound as though MSFT has spent this time laboring over Microsoft Office for iPad, sweating the details to make sure it’s a perfect experience.
It was even described as the “high fidelity” Office experience.
I can tell you that I’ll be personally downloading the Microsoft Office apps in a few minutes to find out just how polished they are.
There’s an argument to be made that MSFT missed the boat — that a generation of iPad users forced to turn to Office-compatible solutions like Apple’s own iWork suite or Google (GOOG) Docs is now quite happy with the status quo, accustomed to free apps and unlikely to turn back to Microsoft Office.
Worse, you could argue that this movement has helped Chromebooks — which use free Google apps in place of Microsoft of Office — rapidly gain ground.
Argue all you want, but the swath of headlines around this announcement would indicate that Office love is far from dead.
Plus, as pointed out in the New York Times, MSFT stock is trading at 14-year highs. Sure, a good part of that optimism is based on the selection of a new CEO, and sure, MSFT shares are actually down nearly 1% today.
But Microsoft’s run-up amid news anticipating today’s event would indicate that there is indeed hope that Microsoft Office for iPad would mark a return to the Office glory days.
So there’s plenty of life left in Microsoft’s old workhorse.
You can thank Apple for that.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.