Microsoft launches Office for iPad

Microsoft launches Office for iPad

Summary: Microsoft is making the long-rumored Office for iPad available today, for free.

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Microsoft's Satya Nadella, in his first press event as CEO, took the wraps off Microsoft's long-rumored Office on iPad suite.

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At an event in San Francisco billed as covering the intersection of cloud and mobile, Microsoft announced that Office for iPad -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint -- will be available for free in the Apple App Store for free as of 11 a.m. PT/2 pm ET today, March 27.

Office on iPad has been rumored to exist for years. The first (mostly) credible reports of its existence date back to 2011, courtesy of The Daily.

In recent months, Microsoft execs all but confirmed the existence of Office for iPad. But the implication was that Microsoft would debut its own touch-first Office suite before it delivered an Office suite on a competing platform.

Microsoft ended up launching its iPad Office suite ahead of the touch-first version of Office coming for Windows 8, which is codenamed "Gemini." (For what it's worth, the decision on the iPad first release timing predated Nadella's appointment as CEO, sources have said.)

Nadella set the stage for the announcement by emphasizing that today's announcement is just one aspect of the company's cloud-mobile strategy and that other pieces will be disclosed in the coming weeks. (That was meant to appease Windows users who didn't hear anything new or more about Gemini in his presentation today, in my opinion.)

Microsoft didn't simply take the Office Mobile version of Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iPhones and enlarge it for the iPad. As has been rumored previously, it seems the company went back to the drawing board and rebuilt the touch-centric Office for iPad apps from scratch. Microsoft is said to have done the same with its coming touch-first Office suite that it will launch later this year.

Microsoft is using a "freemium" model for Office for iPad. The base suite, which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint, is free. Users who don't add an Office 365 subscription to the offering still can do some basic tasks. But to do more advanced tasks -- such as editing documents or accessing OneDrive for Business -- users will need to pay for an Office 365 subscription.

Microsoft also announced during the Office for iPad launch its cross-platform mobile-device management bundle, known as the Enterprise Mobility Suite. That suite, which includes Azure Active Directory Premium, Microsoft's Rights Management Services and Windows Intune device-management service, is aimed at helping large businesses manage iPads, iPhones, Android devices, Windows devices and Windows Phones.

By offering these device management, rights management and identity management services as a bundle, instead of as separate silos, Microsoft can help IT professioals tame the complexity of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) scenarios, Nadella said.

Noting it's only Day 52 for him in the new CEO job, Nadella said that Microsoft is uniquely positioned to serve its customers because of work it is doing in ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence/machine-learning. He emphasized the interdependence between cloud services and devices. 

For the new Microsoft, users means "individuals and organizations spanning across all devices," Nadella said.

 "We want to empower people to be productive and do more on any device," he said. Users are no longer "bound to one device, place or time."

In a nod to developers, Nadella also noted that Microsoft is opening up all of its programming interfaces (APIs) for all of the applications and services that "pertain to users" across its Office apps and Office 365 services. Notifications, mobile services and application state will be exposed so that developers can tap into these Microsoft offerings.

Nadella confirmed he will be at the Microsoft Build 2014 conference in San Francisco next week, where Microsoft will have more operating system and other platform announcements.

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Topics: Mobility, Apple, Cloud, Collaboration, iPad, Microsoft

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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63 comments
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  • The problem for MS fans now...

    is that it will be difficult to say the iPad isn't for real work any more.
    Englishmole
    • Throwing in the towel?

      This basically is an admission that Microsoft is better as a software and services company than as a hardware company. If Office for iPad and Android wind up being better than Office for Surface is today, then they are really saying they just want to sell you and your employer the software that runs on your device. Enterprise Mobility Server is another piece of the same puzzle.
      KPOM1
      • basically.

        yup.
        neonspark
      • You know Surface can run the full features office suite, right?

        These touch enabled versions are nice, but they still are not full office.

        Hardware is commoditizing and everything will be about services and features. Even Jobs said that before he passed away.

        Microsoft makes some of the best services now for any platform.
        Android makes some that can compete, but still not available on all platforms.
        Apple, not so much and even then they lock most everything into their garden.
        Emacho
        • So, that would explain why...

          ...so many people are buying Surface.

          Right?
          Englishmole
          • No.

            That is why most people are buying Androids. Better services, more options, better pricing, more options, apps have caught up and surpassed iOS, more options....

            Microsoft is entering the market against two very well established leaders in the mobile space. Surface Pro is doing very well, surface2 is still a solution looking for a problem to solve. That is why OEMs have moved to making x86 mobile devices which are doing well.
            Emacho
          • So, if that's the case...

            …why haven't Microsoft bothered with Office for Android?

            And would you care to quantify "doing well" when you refer to x86 devices?
            Englishmole
    • Nah

      They'll just say that Office for iPad is equivalent to Microsoft Office Home and Student. And even if an iPad user subscribes to Office 365, they'll just say that it lacks Microsoft Outlook.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Who needs Outlok on a Tablet?

        iOS and Android have native Exchange support as it is.
        KPOM1
        • outlook is more than that

          outlook has integration with exchange in much deeper ways than just mail. iOS and Android don't even come close.
          neonspark
          • You sure you know much about iOS?

            Calendaring, tasks... that's all there too. Just in separate apps.
            Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • Maybe some people

        But not me. While I love my Surface and the Office apps were the reason I chose the platform over the iPad in the first place, this changes the game when I decide to upgrade, probably within a year or so. I may yet upgrade to whatever will be the "latest-and-greatest" Windows-based tablet, but the decision will be much harder.
        Njia1
    • "Real work" isn't dictated by apps.

      Even if it has Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, iOS still doesn't have the same "productivity" feature set that Android and Windows RT do.

      Both of the latter for example, have mouse support and USB capability.

      Office would work a lot better on Android that iOS, for that matter.

      Even then, Android's (TouchWiz's? I forget it stock has it) multitasking and native USB support is still nowhere near as good as Windows RT's.

      As such, Windows RT is still the most productive tablet operating system, not because of its apps, but because of its feature-set.

      Even if RT didn't have Office, it would still be the most productive tablet operating system.

      That's the technical driving force of the argument. Office is just a forefront, and a bonus.
      ForeverCookie
      • ForeverCookie: "Real work" isn't dictated by apps

        Real work is dictated by use cases. A design engineer performs real work with a workstation and would be hard-pressed to run AutoCAD (or equivalent) on any tablet. A UPS or FedEx driver performs real work with a tablet using whatever app is provided for managing package pickup and deliveries as well as a mapping app for directions, if necessary. And would find it difficult dragging a workstation, even a Mac Pro, around. Different jobs ... different use cases. All real work.

        An engineer most likely has a use for Microsoft Office, whereas a UPS or FedEx driver most likely does not. And the UPS or FedEx driver needs neither a USB port nor a mouse.

        And are you aware that some enterprises disable USB ports on PCs for security reasons? Yes, tablets are PCs.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • Yes they are PCs, but in general terms they have stiff limitations

          Things as simple as printing can be difficult or nearly impossible, unless you want to say some companies disallow printing in order to sound like a valid reason.

          Most tablets struggle with multi tasking, typing experience, peripheral support, file/directory access, sharing information between apps, user accounts, administrative rights and on and on. Many things that are just taken for granted on other devices.

          Yes some people can strap a keyboard to a tablet and find some other work arounds to the other limitations to get some work done, but those are more exceptions than representative of the masses.

          Keep in mind these tablets are running operating systems that were designed to run media players and cell phones during a time where hardware limitations dictated design restrictions that are now part of the dog food.
          Emacho
          • Not really

            All of these tablets are running some sort of desktop-class with middleware and API frameworks designed to foster a RAM limited environment (such as the ability for the OS to cleanly stop any UI or whole application). So they're not JUST desktop operating systems. But none of these, not Windows RT, Android, or iOS are media player operating systems. IOS is based on MacOS, not the iPod environment. Windows RT is running the same basic NT as any desktop, they just disable the Win32 desktop (well, for all but Microsoft) API and support the WinRT API. And Android IS Linux, choice of smarter desktop, many server, and most very large server and supercomputer systems today. And ok, some media players and STBs.
            Hazydave
        • Tablets Are PCs

          Whether or not a tablet can be classified as a PC is dependent upon whether or not it has it's own file system and is capable of running programs autonomously. What is important to understand is if the autonomous PC were to disappear, then the entire internet would be controlled by corporate servers. There is this notion in our country that without our guns we would lose our democracy. The loss of gun ownership is no where near as important as our ability to control internet web sites on our own autonomous PC, which would be ran from individually controlled PC servers.
          groberts116
          • Tablets are pcs, not PCs.

            Sure, tablets are personal computers. They are faster and more capable than pretty much anything not classifiable as a modern PC. But even though they kind of stole the term, "PC" connotates an Intel x86 based personal computer or compatible. Few tablets are "PC" in that context, but while some of these systems began life as PC peripherals, that's not been true for awhile now. They are personal computers in their own right.

            I use a big fast expensive PC with many screens for professional work. But many users don't fully exploit their 5-10 year old PC. They're well served using a tablet as their primary or sole personal computer.
            Hazydave
    • Englishmole, it's not a problem....and it wasn't for real work, until....

      Microsoft made it so.

      They've done this for Apple time and time again over the years. If you know the history of MS Office and Apple you'll know that continued support of Microsoft Office for the Mac is one of the major reasons Apple didn't go completely belly up in the mid 90s. MSFT could have pulled the plug on the respirator and announced they was done supporting Office...but they saw their friend in trouble and did the right thing.
      Then only a few years later Apple stabbled them in the back.
      xuniL_z
      • xuniL_z: "the mid 90s"

        Windows 95?! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha ....!!!!! Windows 2000 Professional was really the first Windows version designed for the enterprise desktop.

        I had a Mac at work from 1991 to 1997 that ran Microsoft Office. Apple helped to *make* Microsoft Office the gold standard on the desktop.
        Rabid Howler Monkey