Office for the iPad: It's all about the enterprise

The rumor that Microsoft is soon to roll out Office for the iPad is being met with the question of why the company would negate the advantage Windows has with Office. The answer may be the iPad's entry into the enterprise.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Microsoft Office for the iPad has been featured in rumors for a while. We've heard it's coming, then that it's not, and recently that it is indeed coming, and soon. I tend to believe it is, especially given the report from ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley. Her information is usually spot on, and I'll bet it is accurate.

Some have wondered why Microsoft would release Office for the iPad, since it's a selling point for Windows tablets. Why negate its advantage over the iPad by releasing Office? I believe the answer is simple: it's all about the enterprise.

See related: Where are Microsoft's next versions of Office for Windows and Mac?Microsoft officially rebrands Office Web Apps as 'Office Online' | Microsoft Office on iPad: It's alive and coming sooner than most think

There's no denying that big companies have been making iPads available to employees wanting to participate in the tablet craze. Companies have conducted test programs to see how well the iPad will work for workers, and by and large they have worked just fine.

A contact at ExxonMobile, who must remain anonymous, said the company did that a while back. The test worked well and the company has been making iPads available to those who want to use them for work. According to this insider, the company has deployed quite a few.

I'll bet ExxonMobile is not the only large enterprise that's deployed lots of iPads. If so, like ExxonMobile they won't be used exclusively. My contact says ExxonMobile is trying to get employees to choose Surface tablets over the iPad. Employees tend to like the iPad option, and that's not likely to change.

With the threat of the iPad invading the enterprise, it makes perfect sense for Microsoft to get Office on them. Office is a favorite solution for the workplace, and if Office for the iPad was available I'll bet companies would make sure it's on most of the tablets.

Microsoft grew to the huge company it is today due to Bill Gates' vision long ago to get Microsoft's software on every desk. That extends to the iPad today. If the iPad is coming into the enterprise, why not have Microsoft software on every one?

No question that some consumers will buy Office for the iPad, but getting the enterprise to pick it up is more important. Having Office on the iPad in the workplace is what Microsoft needs, lest corporations discover they can get by without Office. That would be catastrophic for the folks in Redmond.

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