Could Microsoft make Office for iPad work?

Could Microsoft make Office for iPad work?

Summary: More rumours suggest Microsoft could introduce Office for iPad -- and even for the iPhone or Android. But Microsoft knows there are some hurdles ahead.

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TOPICS: iPad
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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Does it even exist? We really don't know. Where is Microsoft Office for iPad?

Microsoft says it doesn't, while two sources --- BGR, and News Corp.'s The Daily --- both claim it does exist. All we know is that it should. But the brouhaha and speculation rides on and Microsoft remains staunchly quiet on the matter.

Further sources speaking to Business Insider --- someone close to the Office sales team no less --- claims the long-awaited software will arrive in November in time for Microsoft's SharePoint conference. It shocks back into life more rumours an iPad version could be on the way.

While it makes sense on the face of it to bring Office to iOS --- and perhaps even to the iPhone and Android --- Microsoft has a few hurdles to overcome.

Microsoft will roll out Windows 8 in or around October. Most analysts and insiders suggest a fall launch. Timing is everything as the Redmond-based company has typically a small window to get the next-generation operating system out in time for the competitive and highly-charged Christmas holiday season

A Windows 8 edition will for the first time run solely on ARM-powered tablets. Windows RT will be Microsoft's first true venture into tablet computing. It's a make or break situation considering Apple not only rules the tablet space, but defined the tablet market with the iPad.

It may seem counter-intuitive to bring Office to the iPad because it would in effect make the iPad even stronger. It could even harm tablet sales if users prefer to buy iPads knowing full-well they can get the Office experience on a device they prefer.

Office for iPad out would guarantee a revenue stream irrespective of Windows 8's performance. At the same time, the consequence could be that it could leave Windows RT dead in the water, meeting analysts' initial expectations.

There are two key problems:

Rolling out Office for iPad on the App Store means Apple would receive a 30 percent cut of all Office for iPad sales goes directly into Apple kitty. It would certainly be ironic that Office sales would actually help Apple.

Also, Microsoft is keen on integrating cloud services with the next-generation Office. The iCloud barrier would be a difficult obstacle to avoid. Microsoft wants to synchronise desktop files with cloud-based SkyDrive. SkyDrive already exists as an application for the iPad, but integrating SkyDrive into Office for iPad --- and circumventing iCloud altogether --- may not be allowed, leaving Microsoft stuck using a rival cloud platform or none at all.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter which platform is used. Microsoft could undercut Apple and bring Office to rival tablet platform. Apple couldn't viably do anything about it. if Apple vetoed the Office listing in its App Store, it could be argued the move would be anti-competitive. Apple certainly doesn't need any more antitrust suits following the ongoing e-book price fixing case.

Microsoft and Apple were unavailable for comment at the time of writing.

Image credit: OnLive.

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Topic: iPad

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54 comments
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  • ..it would in effect make the iPad even stronger -or-

    Not offering Office on iPad drives people to adopt other office suites that have iPad compatible versions. It's a double edged sword. Most people only "need" MS Office to ensure file compatibility with people they exchange documents with. Office is massive overkill for the 90% of the people who buy it just to type up simple memos and email.
    AnalogJoystick
    • 90 Percent?

      90 percent number comes from where?

      I have yet to find a decent Office suite on either the iPad or Android (Polaris comes close). It's not just format but inter connectivity that MSO offers.

      Biggest iPad issue: no file system for off line document functionality. Then add links, embedding, animations, etc....... It is way more than just format.

      Add to that I absolutely do not trust the iCloud.
      rhonin
      • Then again

        It could be the super crippled version they currently offer for Win7.5.

        Oh wait!!! Apple already did that to iWorks. :O
        rhonin
      • @rhonin

        But not everybody (a very small percentage, probably) needs the "industrial strength" product.
        Userama
      • @Userama

        True.
        I was looking at this more from a work/enterprise perspective.
        We may not need it all the time but when we do, swapping office suites short term for function is not a good option.
        rhonin
      • Semi File System

        "Biggest iPad issue: no file system for off line document functionality" while true, at least for documents, I find that the GoodReader app for the iPad is perfect for document management. You can even create folders. GoodReader also has built in connections to DropBox, Box and FTP Servers (FTP, SFTP, AFP). No real need for iCloud, although that works too.
        ManoaHI
      • No ubiquitous file system

        Absolutely this is the biggest flaw in the iPad. Apps can essentially create their own, or kludge up hooks to network or cloud systems, but it's completely contrary to good design principles. There's really no excuse for Apple to continue crippling the iPad in this fashion, other than their mania for keeping the platform as closed as possible.
        terry flores
      • No file system browser is iPads greatest strength.

        If a phone or tablet needs a ubiquitous file system to function, it has already lost the long race and is rooted in 1970's design processes.
        Bruizer
      • The iPad

        Of course, the iPad has file system for local storage. It runs UNIX.
        All applications on the iPad make use of this file system to store documents. It is also possible to interface the iPad applications to network attached storage.
        You don't have to trust iCloud, you could use your own "cloud" (or, network attached storage as it was called until recently). You might want to educate yourself a bit.

        The danger for Microsoft Office is real: you don't even need the "MS Office" document format. ODF will do just fine. But, it's Microsoft's call anyway.
        As they say, nobody can hurt you the way, you can hurt yourself.
        danbi
    • not smart

      paying for Office just to write 1-page essays.

      Nevertheless, some people want to do offline work on tablets. Maybe not smart either, but people want to do what they want to do. Maybe they could use word processors other than Word, but unlikely they could use spreadsheets other than Excel.
      hrlngrv 
      • Why not?

        Apple already publishes iWorks apps for iOS: Pages, Numbers, Keynote.

        Simple to use, with broad connectivity options (iCloud, your own cloud, local storage), touch friendly.. they just do the task. If you need heavy lifting (as in running an application within Excel) -- this is not a task for tablets -- you could do that on an back end server and just use the iPad for input/output. Windows RT tablets won't magically resolve this either.

        So, purchasing Microsoft Office for iPad is really the dream of those who fancy it.
        danbi
  • Silly

    I am sure Microsoft has a working version of Office for the iPad, however I doubt it will ever see the light of day unless Win8 is a complete flop. It is amusing that you point to Apple's anti-competitive ways as one of the reason why we might not see Office on the iPad.
    clcrockett
  • No incentive

    Microsoft knows people will not pay $399 for an iOS version of Office. They also do not want to devalue the "Brand". At best they give iOS users access to Office 365 (with ads), and say if you want to use Office stop using those toy iPads, and buy an x86 Window 8 tablet...
    Jumpin Jack Flash
    • MS Office price

      But will they pay $399 for a crippled Office version on an Windows RT tablet? Very much doubt it...
      danbi
  • iCloud not a barrier

    Microsoft already has iOS apps that leverage SkyDrive, namely OneNote. Microsoft putting OneNote on iOS should have been a clear indicator that MS was planning Office. There is nothing in the developer agreed that states that an app must use iCloud, you just can have the app point to a website selling higher tiers of that service just like the dozens or maybe hundreds that already use 3rd party cloud solutions for storage like Dropbox.

    Even if MS sold $50 for Office which is reasonable as we can assume they won't be putting 100% functionality into the iOS versions plus they will likely stick with the core three apps Word, Excel and PowerPoint; the suite would be wildly successful. Enterprises and education institutions already deploying iPads would all but guarantee to be instant customers for Office for iOS.

    To say that it is ironic that Office sales would help Apple is a little short-sighted as Office for Mac has been helping Apple for years and keeps a lot of people from having a PC on their desk just for Office. It's a win-win for both companies.
    jmiller1978
    • More likely

      I think it's more likely that Microsoft will split the three component apps (Word, Excel, Powerrpoint) and sell them each for $9.99-14.99 than sell the whole package for $50.00. I suspect consumers would balk at a $50.00 iPad app.

      The real question is how much functionality will these versions inclde. Doubtless they will be somewhat less full-featured, but given how bloated Office has become, Microsoft could easily put together a set of essential features that would make Office reasonably priced and a joy to use.
      dsf3g
      • Benefits to a single app solution

        There's a reason MS would want to have the bundle under the umbrella of a single app, interoperability. As another person pointed out, one of Office's strengths is the ability to embed Excel into Word or PowerPoint, or even embed Word into Excel...which a multiple app solution wouldn't allow because of sandbox reasons plus a single app would allow sharing of settings such as user info and views.

        Even though I rarely use PowerPoint, I would still pay up to $50 for Office for iOS but it would be in Microsoft's interest to come in below that.
        jmiller1978
      • Agreed

        The iPad isn't useful enough for people to spend $50 on any one application.
        cwallen19803@...
    • you are kidding yourself

      if you think Microsoft will give you office for $50 or thereabouts. It is unbelievable the sense of entitlement that ipad users think it is in MS interest to sell them office at a bargain. The closest you will get is something like MS works or Officemobile which doesn't come close to desktop office.
      Office won't work on an iPad because iOS places a lot of limitations on embedding and integration between app components which is crucial in office. Simple things like keyboard macros would not work as iOS doesn't allow apps access to the keyboard buffer which is why you don't have alternative keyboard apps for iOS. VB scripts? no chance in hell. All you will have is a severely crippled version that will keep warning you that the office file you are opening contains features that may not be compatible with this version and if you edit and save, you will lose those features that were in the file. Enterprise would not be pleased to hear that ipad users are wrecking their stylesheets and macros and corrupting office files.
      MS Works? maybe
      MS Office? not as we know it
      warboat
      • Entitlement?

        Entitlement has nothing to do with it, it's called basic economics. When the average selling price of an iOS App is under $5.00, coming in at a much higher price of 10 to 20x, MS wouldn't sell as many for what essentially would be Office "companion" apps. At $50, they'd be the most expensive office suite on the iPad. Plus since they do have to go through the App Store, they can't leverage volume licensing or software assurance.

        As for macros and other advanced features, they would simply be ignored and not stripped as you suggest since you're dealing with the same official DOCX file type and not a conversion or reverse-engineered interpretation of Microsoft's formats.
        jmiller1978