Microsoft Office for iPad: Separating fact from fiction

Microsoft Office for iPad: Separating fact from fiction

Summary: If the Daily.com is right, Microsoft's Office for iPad could be launching well ahead of Office for Windows 8 on ARM tablets.

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The Daily.com -- the folks that brought us last year's rumor that Microsoft planned to deliver Office for the iPad in 2012 -- is back with an update.

On February 21, The Daily folks said that they had gotten a brief hands-on with Office on iPad. They also said they expected Office for iPad to be sent to Apple for approval "soon." The Daily's Matt Hickey is guessing that the release could be "in the coming weeks."

Update: A Microsoft spokesperson said the screen shot accompanying The Daily's story is not a picture of a real Microsoft software product. But the spokesperson also said Microsoft is declining to comment as to whether or not the company has developed a version of Office for the iPad and/or when such a product may come to market. I've asked Daily Editor Peter Ha and Matt Hickey, the author of The Daily's piece, for a response (via Twitter). No word back so far from either.

Update No. 2: The Daily's Ha denied the image was fabricated by the publication. Not only that -- Ha says it was a Softie who demo'd the Office on iPad app to them. Here's Ha's tweet to me:

I've asked Microsoft for another comment. Maybe the Softies could claim it wasn't an image of a real product because this was a concept/demo app? (That's the theory put forth by @thefakedes on Twitter.)

Update No. 3: The Microsoft spokesperson said the company has nothing more to say beyond their previous comment. Meanwhile, Ha is hinting that Microsoft isn't going to like whatever follow-up is coming next. So now we're in total he said/she said territory....

Now, back to our original story:

What I found interesting in today's report is that The Daily's description of Office for iPad sounds a lot like Office 15 for WOA. The coming "suite" will consist of four apps -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote -- and have a Metro-ish look and feel. (OneNote is the only Office app Microsoft currently offers for the iPad.)

Microsoft officials recently said that Windows 8 on ARM (WOA) tablets and PCs would "include" these four Office 15 apps. It's unclear what "include" means here, and Microsoft officials aren't saying if these apps will be free, preinstalled, integrated into the OS or made available in some other ways.

(Microsoft officials have not said when they plan to launch Office 15, but my contacts have said that it is on track to be released to manufacturing before the end of this calendar year. We also don't know whether Microsoft might launch a "tablet" SKU of Office ahead of the rest of the suite in order to get it out there for Windows 8 on ARM -- and possibly iPad -- tablets.)

Last week, Nomura Research analyst and long-time Microsoft watcher Rick Sherlund said he was highly doubtful Microsoft would do Office for iPad because the Windows team would block it. Indeed, many see Office as one of the few competitive advantages that Microsoft has with the coming Windows 8 slates and tablets.

But Microsoft management doesn't see things with Windows-colored glasses only any more. The Microsoft Business Division -- home to Office -- makes more money than Windows client does. And that unit has been dabbling with porting Office apps to non-Microsoft platforms for a while now.

Just last week, when asked whether Microsoft might do Office for iPad, Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein said "Microsoft believes it has a 'great tablet experience with Office'" -- and didn't specify which kinds of tablets he meant.

One of my Twitter buds, Adrian Clark, had an interesting observation about the supposed leaked screen shot of Office on the iPad. The first icon looks like Microsoft's Remote Desktop icon. What if Microsoft's "Office for tablets" SKU is actually like the OnLive Desktop app and is simply these four Office apps running remotely (with some kind of "native" client code downloadable to the individual tablet devices)? Just a pure and total guess, but interesting, nonetheless....

More from ZDNet: Larry Dignan: Microsoft Office for the iPad: Smart Way to Defend the Franchise

Topics: Collaboration, iPad, Microsoft, Mobility, Software, Tablets

About

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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61 comments
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  • RE: Microsoft Office for iPad sounds a lot like Office for WOA tablets

    It doesn't sound like Office for WoA. It sounds more like Office for Windows Phone 7. "Metro'ish UI" = Office Mobile. MS had said that Office will be full fledged and run under the Windows 8 desktop, even on ARM. That's not a Metro UI.
    LiquidLearner
    • Metro-ish

      Hi. I'm using "Metro-ish" here to distinguish this from "Metro-Style." Metro Style, in Microsoft's confusing parlance, really means a WinRT app. We now know from MS that Office 15 apps on WOA are NOT going to be Metro-Style. They are desktop apps. So they can use some of the Metro design elements, but they aren't true Metro-Style.

      Microsoft's insistence on calling everything "Metro" is creating a lot of confusion, in my and others' opinions... Thanks. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • I still have my money

        @Mary Jo Foley

        On Office for iPad being similar to Office on Windows Phone. They could sell it cheap, $10-20, and it's still more functional the Docs to Go and QuickOffice. Especially if they maintain the SharePoint support. That would allow them to make money off the iDevice market while offering a tablet with a superior Office experience bundled. It seems like a smart play to me.

        I could be wrong but I'd be willing to bet.
        LiquidLearner
      • I wouldn't be surprised ...

        @Mary Jo Foley,

        ... the Daily article is correct. I think a scenario in which MS develops a light, Metro (WinRT) version of Office, which becomes included in WOA devices, is very plausible. Also, distributing a Metro styled, light, iPad version of Office on the iPad, would makes sense. (Users of Windows 8 devices, including WOAs, would then have the option of purchasing the full version of (Win32) Office if they want to.) In the above scenario, MS gets to defend Office against low cost competitors on the iPad and Windows 8, while also preserving the value of the full Office suite. Another very important point: developers of the Metro design language (working with Office developers / designers) get to work out ways rich apps can be designed / styled - which is very important for the development of rich apps. I'm very much inclined to believe the above scenario will unfold.
        P. Douglas
      • RE: Microsoft Office for iPad sounds a lot like Office for WOA tablets

        @Mary Jo Foley <br><br>Calling it Metro-style or Metro-like makes it sound like it's not really the official Metro UI found on WP7, just designed in the same style to look like it is. Technically that may be correct, but its a naming disaster that will confuse people. Metro on their phones, Metro-style on tablets and PCs. Just label it all Metro!
        dave95.
      • RE: Microsoft Office for iPad sounds a lot like Office for WOA tablets

        @Mary Jo Foley: Office on iPad would take away a USP from Windows 8 though, especially WOA.
        bradavon
      • RE: Microsoft Office for iPad sounds a lot like Office for WOA tablets

        @Mary Jo Foley
        If I were to create a "Metro-ish" app and submit it, Microsoft would most likely deny the app into their market because it's not in full conformation to the guidelines. I guess there are perks to owning the platform.
        PolymorphicNinja
      • RE: Microsoft Office for iPad sounds a lot like Office for WOA tablets

        @Mary Jo Foley With Office 365 available to anyone with an internet connection I don't see why Office would be difficult to deliver to any OS or device. Could Office for iOS be a variation of Office 365, with local storage options for documents?
        CasualAdventurer
  • RE: Microsoft Office for iPad sounds a lot like Office for WOA tablets

    Microsoft needs to be careful not to create a "Good Enough" scenario. If Office on iPad is good enough it could be a big blow to Windows 8. People are already finding ways to use the iPad in place of a PC. Will Office really loose money if they stayed exclusive to Windows for another year?
    rwalrond
    • Microsoft may not care

      @rwalrond A good company knows when to let one product lose its dependencies on another. The Office franchise may be more valuable to Microsoft then Windows (and with Azure taking off, that may be true at both client and server level.)<br><br>If so, they are well served to go where the users are.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • RE: Microsoft Office for iPad sounds a lot like Office for WOA tablets

        @rbethell I will concede that Microsoft knows more about their products than I do. But, it doesn't seem to me that the current version of Office is under the same kind of fire as Windows. I'm thinking Windows needs to lean on its Office siblings for some extra support through this transition over to Metro.
        rwalrond
      • RE: Microsoft Office for iPad sounds a lot like Office for WOA tablets

        @rbethell

        " The Office franchise may be more valuable to Microsoft then Windows"

        I'll correct that;

        The Office franchise is more valuable to Microsoft then Windows. It's the biggest, although not the only reason, that keeps users on Windows. The business division has the slight upper hand here and should go where the users and ultimately the money is, be it iOS, Android, or Windows.
        smulji
    • RE: Microsoft Office for iPad sounds a lot like Office for WOA tablets

      @rwalrond
      Word has already fallen into the good enough category, don't now anyone on any modern version of Word that does not think it is VERY hard to use and un-reliable. A re-write of word would be MSFT best present to the industry.
      kpbpsw
      • RE: Microsoft Office for iPad sounds a lot like Office for WOA tablets

        @kpbpsw,
        "don't now anyone on any modern version of Word that does not think it is VERY hard to use and un-reliable."
        How is it hard to use? What do you mean by un-reliable?
        bmonsterman
      • Like has to keep recovering itself

        @bmonsterman
        I am a technical writer and have been using Word since the early 1990s.

        For several versions, styles with bullets/numbering would just suddenly change indent (not helped by having two mechanisms that battle for what wins), and page numbers in contents would just all become 0 for a time.

        With later versions, I find in Word that a document will crash and have to be recovered. I wonder if Word can do such a good job of recovering, why can't MS prevent it from needing to?

        And the whole separate application thing. Why can't every table in Word have the functionality of an Excel spreadsheet, and presentation be a view of selected elements? There does not really have to be separate programs. As a designer of Office-based solutions, I wish I could make formulae referencing any named element, including bookmarks, cell-ranges, or whatever. And OLE is a joke, as it tends to be unstable and inplace editing is awkward.

        It would be good to be able to lock down Word, but in a simpler way than having to go the whole schema setup, which most businesses just do not have the expertise nor the culture to use. Word requires that any user must know what Word functionality has been used otherwise they are sure to break it. Word must be one of the most hostile environments to program into(worse than Javascript in web pages) because it is extremely hard to stop users stuffing it up. One element from Framemaker I did like is the ability to set a document up for different user skill levels, so that they couldn't break certain aspects of the structure, but it was still easy for them to use, and easy to set up for them.

        It is relatively easy to lock down Excel, which is why many use it for forms, but the more complex they are, the fiddlier it becomes to edit the structure.

        PowerPoint is no more than a fancy slideshow and must be the most overpriced application for what it actually does.

        For the moment, Office is the only truly enterprise capable office suite, as it can be used to build applications in blocks that would otherwise require months and a full project setup to do in any other programming setup. And everyone has the IDE.
        Patanjali
      • Like has to keep recovering itself

        @bmonsterman
        I am a technical writer and have been using Word since the early 1990s.

        For several versions, styles with bullets/numbering would just suddenly change indent (not helped by having two mechanisms that battle for what wins), and page numbers in contents would just all become 0 for a time.

        With later versions, I find in Word that a document will crash and have to be recovered. I wonder if Word can do such a good job of recovering, why can't MS prevent it from needing to?

        And the whole separate application thing. Why can't every table in Word have the functionality of an Excel spreadsheet, and presentation be a view of selected elements? There does not really have to be separate programs. As a designer of Office-based solutions, I wish I could make formulae referencing any named element, including bookmarks, cell-ranges, or whatever. And OLE is a joke, as it tends to be unstable and inplace editing is awkward.

        It would be good to be able to lock down Word, but in a simpler way than having to go the whole schema setup, which most businesses just do not have the expertise nor the culture to use. Word requires that any user must know what Word functionality has been used otherwise they are sure to break it. Word must be one of the most hostile environments to program into(worse than Javascript in web pages) because it is extremely hard to stop users stuffing it up. One element from Framemaker I did like is the ability to set a document up for different user skill levels, so that they couldn't break certain aspects of the structure, but it was still easy for them to use, and easy to set up for them.

        It is relatively easy to lock down Excel, which is why many use it for forms, but the more complex they are, the fiddlier it becomes to edit the structure.

        PowerPoint is no more than a fancy slideshow and must be the most overpriced application for what it actually does.

        For the moment, Office is the only truly enterprise capable office suite, as it can be used to build applications in blocks that would otherwise require months and a full project setup to do in any other programming setup. And everyone has the IDE.
        Patanjali
      • RE: Microsoft Office for iPad sounds a lot like Office for WOA tablets

        @Patanjali,
        OLE is a joke, and you should refrain from using it in your documents. It's probably the cause of 90% of your crashes. If you need to embed content from one document into another, I would either translate the information in word content, or use an image.

        "Why can't every table in Word have the functionality of an Excel spreadsheet, and presentation be a view of selected elements?"

        Excel is excel, Word is word. When an application tries to be everything to everyone, chaos and instability reins.

        "Word must be one of the most hostile environments to program into(worse than Javascript in web pages) because it is extremely hard to stop users stuffing it up. One element from Framemaker I did like is the ability to set a document up for different user skill levels, so that they couldn't break certain aspects of the structure, but it was still easy for them to use, and easy to set up for them."

        When you start making a document into an application, you have to be aware of the risks. Let's be honest, technical writers are not programmers. Complex macros don't go through the rigorous testing that normal software does. Buyer beware!
        bmonsterman
      • RE: Microsoft Office for iPad sounds a lot like Office for WOA tablets

        @Patanjali

        There are definitely some annoying formatting bugs I've come across in Word, but the only crashes I have come across of the type you describe involve HP printer drivers - every time.
        12312332123
    • RE: Microsoft Office for iPad sounds a lot like Office for WOA tablets

      @rwalrond
      For the foreseeable future has nothing to worry about Apple taking over Windows. However It might be helpful to MS to create such. Apple is financially worth 2-3 times more than Microsoft now.
      pjones
    • Office not on Windows...

      Not sure what rock some of you have been hiding under for the last decade, but Office has been on Mac OS for an entire decade now. Normally launching 1-2 years after the Windows version and including several features not found on PCs. It is one of the reasons a lot of businesses allow Macs as the number 1 work program in the world is available for them. (Personally I think MS should never make apps for any other OS, it just allows people to leave Windows and still eat their cake.)
      aiellenon