How to parse a Microsoft denial

How to parse a Microsoft denial

Summary: Microsoft's response to The Daily's latest Office on iPad story provides a lesson in how to interpret Microsoft's official responses to information the company isn't ready to share.


As a long-time Microsoft watcher, I've seen lots of Microsoft denials in my day. I've had my stories called "not reflective of Microsoft's current thinking," mere "rumors" and "based on incorrect and out of date information."

Microsoft officials called out The Daily's February 21 story on the coming Office on the iPad product as being "based on inaccurate rumors and speculation." Does this mean Microsoft isn't building Office for the iPad? No. Not at all.

A Microsoft spokesperson also told me that the images illustrating The Daily's story were not pictures of a real Microsoft software product. Does that mean the images were Photoshopped? Again, no.

Notice Microsoft officials did not say that Microsoft isn't building a version of Office for the iPad. (In fact, if Microsoft wasn't building Office for the iPad, I'd be more surprised than if they are.)

When I contacted Matt Hickey, the author of The Daily's latest story, he sent me the following:

"Right now, someone with a mid-level job at Microsoft is being yelled at. To that person: I'm sorry, I owe you a beer. But say it however you want to, we both know that Office for iPad is on its way. And if it's as cool as the version I've seen, you've got a winner."

So what about Microsoft's claims thatThe Daily's photos weren't of a real Microsoft software product? Remember: If something like the actual UI screen in a photo isn't yet final and subject to change in any way, Microsoft execs technically can say this with a (semi) straight face.

A more truthful answer could have been something like "This isn't what the final launch screen for Office on the iPad may end up looking like." But because the Softies aren't yet ready to raise the curtain on the  coming iPad app (and yes, I do believe such an app is coming) -- they tried to discredit the whole report, hoping that those reading would say "nothing to see here" and move along....

I think Microsoft's main quibble with The Daily's report today may be around the alleged timing. That's where I am most cautious, too. Hinting that Office for the iPad is going to Apple for approval very soon and could be available in "the coming weeks" strikes me as potentially overly optimistic. A tweet from @MSFTnews account seems to make this point, too:

The motto of this post is a couple wrong tidbits don't mean an entire story/post is wrong. But if Microsoft officials can get you to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to a story they don't want out, they'll go for it.

By the way, as @AvatarX reminded me today on Twitter, a three-app version of Office for iOS isn't a brand-new concept. He predicted this was coming in December 2011, right after The Daily leaked its initial report.

Topics: Collaboration, iPad, Microsoft, Mobility, Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: How to parse a Microsoft denial

    Microsoft should have gotten this out far sooner. The benefit of hindsight says it should have been in the App Store from day one. However, in truth they should have gotten it out in the first six months.

    The problem is the iPad is a huge success WITHOUT Microsoft Office, which might be viewed as a surprise. If they'd have gotten it out sooner then maybe we'd all still believe Microsoft Office was REQUIRED for a platform to be a success. Now we know better, this isn't something Microsoft should have let us figure out.
    • RE: How to parse a Microsoft denial

      @jeremychappell The office App isn't about the iPad, it is about getting their services in front of more people and eventually we will likely see it on an XBOX as well.
    • RE: How to parse a Microsoft denial

      It's not about whether or not Office is REQUIRED. To me, it's quite clearly about going after a market segment that can no longer be ignored.

      The availability of Office for iPad may actually end up and EXPANDING the market for iPads, by binging in enterprise users, or those who didn't want two separate devices for home use and work use. But it sounds like that's a risk Microsoft has chosen to take on knowingly.
    • RE: How to parse a Microsoft denial


  • Surely, not even Microsoft is that niave.

    [i]"But because the Softies aren???t yet ready to raise the curtain on the coming iPad app???they tried to discredit the whole report, hoping that those reading would say ???nothing to see here??? and move along"[/i] Do they really think that on something as big as Office on the iPad that they could put the genie back in the bottle and/or that we'd forget about this article? While I'm sure that's every MarCom Manager's dream it doesn't work that way. What are they going to say when they [i]do[/i] release it, "Oh, we changed our mind?"

    Personally, I think that, assuming the Daily is being honest and upon the existence of Office for iOS becoming public knowledge, Microsoft should have grabbed their favorite journalist or blogger and give them a real exclusive saying "Yes, Office for iPad is done, we're submitting it tomorrow, tell Apple to get the servers ready because we expect to set an iOS app sales record!" Yeah, maybe the OEMs would be unhappy, but last time I checked, Microsoft was a [b]software[/b] company, and Office is [i]very[/i] lucrative software. So I say, let Microsoft be Microsoft and go sell a lot of software.
    • RE: How to parse a Microsoft denial


      That assumes the app is ready, which I assume it isn't. Plus, if they are developing it, I'm sure they already have a venue which to announce it.
      Jeff Kibuule
      • According to the guy who's seen it it

        @dagamer34 It's ready. If he's lying the whole point is moot, but if he's right then it doesn't matter if they have a venue or not-the cat's out of the bag.
    • There's only one problem

      @matthew_maurice : releasing the Office for iPad app will indeed kill Windows (8) on ARM...<br><br>But ironically, Office for iPad might not even be a great thing. When I first bought an iPhone, I checked to see if it had MSN Messenger, and voila!, there it was, so I felt reassured that I could have my buddies on my smart phone. But latter I discovered eBuddy and the thousand other IMs available (including Facebook Messenger) and found that having MSN Messenger was no longer a necessity.<br><br>Same could happen with good ol' Office.
  • RE: How to parse a Microsoft denial

    It will likely be more than just iPad as they look to become an Application Service Company. I could see this on Blackberry and Android as well.
    • RE: How to parse a Microsoft denial

      @Peter Perry I think Windows 8 and Xbox and Windows Phone and Bing and MSN and so many other things makes Microsoft a lot more than an "Application Service Company."
    • No market for Android tablets

      @Peter Perry

      You have 10x the market on iPads.
      • RE: How to parse a Microsoft denial

        @Bruizer , Both Amazon with their new Kindle Fire is reporting sales in the millions of units and Barnes and Noble saying that their Nook Color and Tablet have exceeded expectations (also estimated in the millions of units sold), how is that not a viable market? Yes, Apples sells more iPads, but nothing in the $200 range like Kindle and the Nook. I can only assume that once they have the iPad version done, an Android version can not be far behind.
  • There are a couple of things ...

    The picture in the Daily article (see link below) looks like it may be a Windows tablet, with a light, Metro (WinRT) version of Office. (Note the retractable menu typically seen in Win 8 Metro apps.) The device definitely does not look like an iPad, so I doubt the picture depicts accurately what the iPad version of Office will look like. MS therefore appears to be correct when it says the "Daily???s story were not pictures of a real Microsoft software product."

    I'm still inclined to believe however, that there will be a light, Metro (WinRT) version of MS Office, as well as a light version of Office for the iPad, to head off competition from low cost alternatives on both platforms. I believe these will be in addition to full blown Win32 versions of Office, which will continue to be MS' main productivity money maker for the foreseeable future.

    thedaily. com/page/2012/02/21/022112-tech-apps-office/
    P. Douglas
    • It 100% and iPad 2

      @P. Douglas

      Easy to see.
  • RE: How to parse a Microsoft denial

    I hate to defend the 'softies... but they've been burned by anticipations before.
  • It's called fact checking...

    "The motto of this post is a couple wrong tidbits don???t mean an entire story/post is wrong. But if Microsoft officials can get you to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to a story they don???t want out, they???ll go for it."

    The motto that I'm reading is more like "We're either too lazy, or in too much of a hurry to get our story out first, to bother checking that the news we're reporting is actually correct. Just because we're sometimes publicly shown to be wrong, doesn't mean you should stop reading our articles. You can still trust us, I promise we guess right most of the time..."
    • That's a bit simplisitic in this case.


      How do you "check" when the official company line is to "deny" everything? Some kind of "Mission Impossible" stunt through the ventilation shafts in the Redmond offices, perhaps?

      It sounds to me like someone "with a mid-level job" in MS showed a non-final version of something to a reporter, and so the reporter reported it. And it's worth remembering that reporting only what a company [i]wants[/i] reported isn't journalism at all. It's called "PR".
    • RE: How to parse a Microsoft denial

      @anonmous12 : Well, anyone who has been around since the "stone age (early 1980's)" knows full well that Microsoft has a verifiable rep for not being truthful - but somehow they still want to believe that "denial is the best defense"... Got news for them....
  • RE: How to parse a Microsoft denial

    In a week, we have the new Win 8 preview. Would it be surprising that there would be an Office preview at the same time?
    • RE: How to parse a Microsoft denial

      Yes, it would be very surprising.

      My personal view is that the thinking within the Windows 8 product team would probably go something like this: "NOTHING should steal the thunder from Win8 - not even another of Microsoft's own products."