Microsoft launches Office for iPad

Microsoft is making the long-rumored Office for iPad available today, for free.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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


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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