Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

Summary: The Daily is quoting unnamed sources saying Microsoft has decided to go forward with Office for the iPad. But when and how (and for how much) will such a product debut?

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The Daily is reporting via unnamed sources that Microsoft is planning to roll out Office for the iPad in 2012.

I'd be more surprised if the Softies didn't roll out some kind of Office release for the iPad, given they've already done OneNote for the iPhone and are continuing to support Office on Macs.

No brainer or not, The Daily's November 29 report stirs up the age-old debate for Microsoft when it comes to all of its software and services. Would it be more profitable and preferable for Microsoft to keep a given product or service a Windows-only offering? Or would Microsoft make more money and attract more users by porting their apps to non-Windows-based platforms?

In the case of Office, Microsoft hasn't made the full version of its PC productivity suite available on any platforms beyond the Mac (though way back when there was talk that the Office division had developed a version of Office to run on Linux, but decided not to bring it to market). Yes, Office Web Apps -- the Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote -- do run to some extent on non-Windows PCs. But currently, Office Web Apps only allow document viewing but not document editing or creation on the Mac with Safari 4 (or later), Firefox 3.5 (or later) or Chrome.

The Daily's report also claims Microsoft is planning to charge $10 or so for its Office apps in order to compete with Apple's own Pages, Numbers and Keynote products. If that's the case, that will be more of a surprise. Office Web Apps are free, but Office isn't. The Home & Student SKU of Office 2010, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote is around $99 (street price). Other SKUs run in the multiple hundreds of dollars range.

There is another way Microsoft could deliver Office on the iPad with less risk of cannibalizing sales of full-fledged/full-priced versions. The Starter version of Office  2010 is available only when preinstalled by Windows PC makers. It is basically reduced-functionality, ad-supported, free versions of Word and Excel meant to hook users in and convince them to upgrade to a full-fledged version of the product by buying an activation code. Could Microsoft use a similar strategy on iPads without requiring Apple to preload the SKU -- and instead allowing users to grab a stripped-down Word and Excel combo for the iPad from the App Store, hoping they'll ultimately be willing to shell out more for a full version of the suite?

Microsoft officials have been vague as to when and how Office will run on ARM, other than to say it will run natively. Will Office on ARM be a Windows 8 notebook thing only -- and maybe not until 2013? Or will it also be on Windows 8 ARM tablets (Microsoft's closest equivalent to an iPad), too, some time in 2012?  Once we know the answer to that question, maybe we'll have more insight as to what the Office team has up its sleeve for the iPad....

Update: A couple of my Twitter chums chimed in with some thought-provoking ideas.

Stephen McAteer noted that Microsoft could find a way to tie Office 365 and whatever kind of Office solution the company ends up fielding for the iPad. Microsoft could allow those with an Office 365 subscription to have access to a low-end iPad offering (for free or cheap), he noted. And Rod Simmons, one of the hosts of the Simple Mobile Review podcast, said he thought the Office for iPad offering would most likely be some kind of HTML5 Web app so as to prevent Apple from collecting a 30 percent cut as it does for apps sold through the iPad App Store.

Topics: Microsoft, Collaboration, iPad, Mobility, Software

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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33 comments
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  • RE: Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

    Why not? If they can't beat them........join them.
    -V-
    • RE: Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

      @-V-
      because they CAN beat them, as android has beaten the once invincible iphone and how windows beat the once invincible apple pc. The world's #1 OS in history won't just "go away" during the transition to tablets just because apple has sold less than 10% of tablets of what windows 7 sells in a year.
      neonspark
      • RE: Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

        @neonspark

        But isn't the issue applications, rather than platforms? I'm a loyal Office user with no complaints, but what if I get the Acme office suite for my iPad, because Microsoft Office is unavailable, and I end up liking Acme as well or better? What if Acme is cheaper and "good enough?" What if I'm the business decision maker and we end up switching to Acme firm-wide, on all our platforms?

        IMO Office on every platform they can port it to is a no-brainer - if you bought an iPad, Microsoft has already lost your brand loyalty to some extent. Why push the rest of your loyalty to a 3rd party product by choosing not to offer Office on what is now your platform of choice?
        1DaveN
      • RE: Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

        @neonspark I think they will....
        nomikhokher
      • Hmmm

        > because they CAN beat them, as android has beaten the once invincible iphone

        Android is a platform, iPhone is a device.
        Sputnik25
    • RE: Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

      [i]Why not? If they can't beat them........join them.[/i]

      My sentiments, exactly.
      ScorpioBlue
    • RE: Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

      @-V-

      And vice versa - would be great to see a modern UI on an iPad and let people move over to Win 8 on another tablet.

      ;-)
      tonymcs1
      • RE: Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

        @tonymcs@... <br>Like every the comments of every Windows fan, your comment is totally relevant, makes total sense and doesn't make you sound like a troll at all. On top of that, you don't use vague subjective terms to justify your preference of UI.
        anono
  • RE: Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

    Obviously it will have to be cheap to compete with iWork. But you can bet any iOS-port of Microsoft Office will have reduced functionality compared to the desktop version.
    aaron44126
    • RE: Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

      [i]But you can bet any iOS-port of Microsoft Office will have reduced functionality compared to the desktop version.[/i]

      Well that's the nature of tablets. One does have to make compromises and if one can't do that then don't buy one.
      ScorpioBlue
    • RE: Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

      @aaron44126: I believe iWork on iPad is reduced too.
      bradavon
  • RE: Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

    absolutely no they shouldn't. first of all, apple already has their own thing on the ipad. Further validating the ipad as a windows replacement doesn't help microsoft in the long term.

    Second, MSFT won't get a way with making the kind of money they make with office on the ipad given the margins are much thinner not to mention 30% of it goes to apple. why would MSFT donate 30% of office sales to apple on top of tons of good PR for apple's ipad strategy just to earn a few million bucks? This is a self defeating strategy from the start.

    Third, sales of office for the mac are a rounding error for MSFT bottom line and sales of the ipad office would likewise be the case yet lost longterm revenue by torpedoing the strategic advantage that windows tablets would offer over the ipad (namely true office apps) isn't worth it. If MSFT has any hope to be around in the future, the last thing it needs to do at this point is join the race to the bottom of mobile apps and share 30% of its revenue with the company that is doing everything it can to kill them. Losing a few million dollars in lost sales of office for ipad is nothing compared to the billions they will lose if windows 8 doesn't have key differentiators that set it on a class of its own against the ipads.

    The flawed logic that MSFT should replace the office/windows cash cow with an office for ipad cash cow is fundamentally mistaken.
    neonspark
  • RE: Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

    No Office for Android Tablets would be wiser... They can level the playing field of Tablets and then strike with better integration of their own OS! This will be an issue if they release this for the iPad as it will only create a lopsided playing field that has become more even with Holiday Sales.
    slickjim
    • RE: Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

      @Peter Perry

      There are plenty of office suites out there for android. giving 30% of office revenue to google is equivalent to blowing their brains out. MSFT can't survive as an "adobe" like company that only sells a set of specialty tools. They may as well kill the company and sell all assets at that point.
      neonspark
      • RE: Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

        @neonspark It isn't about the office suites man and that's what's you don't get! This partnership would give Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich Business and Street Cred which would easily level off the field (I am certain the sales this holiday season have made a dent for Android Tablets).

        Anyway, the point is, it is easier to slow growth if you level the playing field because 2 choices will paralyze some consumers and Allow MS to crawl back into this game.
        slickjim
      • Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

        MS is always the last company to come out with new technology for consumers...they played with their touch screen devices since 2000 selling only to corporations like Fox news for their touch screen TV's....

        Now enters Apple and they lowered the prices for consumers and corporations and their software is starting to take over for these devices...

        Checkout the Windows Store, it is terrible as developers are not making any apps for any reasons for MS Products (Windows phone or Windows 8)...

        Microsoft can enter the game of making money and dominating the market by creating their software (office) and selling it in the app store...if not, then they will lose just like with their phone...

        The iPad is about to be the top seller for corporations in every industry and MS will not be able to catch up...

        The iPad will replace the MAC Books and the PC's as a mobile productivity device...

        The game is about making money and here is Microsoft's chance to prove that they are really three companies (desktop software, desktop operating system, server operating system)...

        Having an ego and trying to over charge consumers is a game that they will eventually lose...
        pbshort1
  • If Windows 8-based tablets are a flop ...

    ... Microsoft would want its Office product to remain relevant on mobile devices, especially tablets. In addition, porting Office to the iPads' ARM architecture and enabling touch-based UI functionality will give them a head start for their own deployment on the ARM architecture.

    Why not Android too? Because (1) Microsoft Office already runs on Mac OS X, from which iOS is based, and (2) the iPad is stomping Android-based (as well as other) tablets in the enterprise, which is Microsoft's most important market.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • It will be Office Mobile

    It won't be the full Office Suite. Why would anyone assume otherwise? $10 for Office Mobile would be a good deal for the iPad and wouldn't hurt the existing Office market at all. It would just be additional money. And a selling point for Windows 8 Metro and Windows Phone. It would be there free already. And probably better.
    LiquidLearner
    • RE: It will be Office Mobile

      @LiquidLearner wrote:<br>"It won't be the full Office Suite.<br><br>Apples' iWork apps for the iPad aren't the "full" iWork for Mac OS X, either. It's reasonable to assume that any Microsoft Office apps for the iPad would have reduced functionality relative to the Mac OS X and Windows desktops.<br><br>Two additional killer Microsoft Office apps for the iPad (beyond Word, Excel and PowerPoint) would be Visio and Project. Both are highly graphical apps and would lend themselves quite nicely to a touch-based UI.

      P.S. Don't forget that many iPad owners also use Bluetooth keyboards.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • RE: Microsoft Office for the iPad: Should they? Could they? Will they?

    This is good. For Microsoft to thrive it needs to let go of Windows. That's what Courier did and that's why Courier was killed.

    If Microsoft con invoke creative destruction to move beyond Windows maybe they can create the next version of the company.
    OldHenry