Microsoft Office for iPad: Separating fact from fiction

If the Daily.com is right, Microsoft's Office for iPad could be launching well ahead of Office for Windows 8 on ARM tablets.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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

Editorial standards