Why Ballmer doesn't want Office on the iPad

Microsoft is still tied to Windows and the PC industry, and putting the flagship Office suite on the iPad would give the competing platform additional traction.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Over 120 million iPads have sold since their unveiling by the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs in April of 2010, yet Microsoft's flagship Office suite continues to be noticeably absent from the tablet.

But why?

There have been plenty of rumors that an iOS-compatible version of popular applications such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are in the pipeline, but so far nothing has materialized. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is "happy with the product that we're putting in market" and said it "makes sense on the devices like the Mac and the PC," while at the same time not commenting on the obvious elephant in the room--the lack of iOS support.

If Microsoft wants Office on the iPad, then Office would be on the iPad. The company would even be willing to swallow Apple's 30 percent commission on apps sold through its App Store to make that happen if it were important. But Office is not on iOS because Microsoft doesn't want it there.

This isn't to say that some within Microsoft wouldn't like to see Office on iOS. One source described the prospect of making the suite available to the iPad user base as "a goldmine."

So why no Office for iOS?

There are several reasons. Let's examine a few.

First, making Office available to the tens of millions of iPad owners--many of them business and enterprise users--would seriously harm Microsoft's ability to sell Windows 8-powered tablets, even its own Surface and Surface Pro hardware. Putting Office on the iPad would eliminate one of the key reasons for enterprise to adopt tablets running Windows 8.

One less Windows 8-powered tablet sold means one less Windows license sold.

Several OEM sources have also expressed concern at the prospect of Microsoft releasing a version of Office for iOS, fearing that the move would give the iPad even more traction--if such a thing is possible--and send PC sales into an even steeper tailspin. PC sales are already in an unhappy state, and putting the Office suite on the platform could be a terminal tipping point for the industry as a whole.

Another problem is that Microsoft--at least the Office division--appears to be unfamiliar with the current app model as promoted by Apple. Microsoft is comfortable with pushing out a new version of Office every few years, having it replace the older version. But this is not how apps work, and buyers--consumers and enterprise alike--like the new model of buying an app once and then receiving a continuous trickle of free updates over time.

Embracing apps would mean embracing a new way of doing business.

This is why we don't have the Office suite on our iPads.

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