Feb 19 2014

Is Office for the iPad Still on the Table for Microsoft?

The debate about whether an official version of Office is headed for the most popular tablet rages on.

Back in October, in response to a question during the annual Gartner Symposium IT conference, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer indicated that a touch-screen version of Office could someday make its way to Apple’s iPad device.

"Word, PowerPoint and Excel are all authoring tools," said Ballmer, according to Computerworld. "They are optimized for use with keyboards and mice. The last time I checked, the iPad didn't have a paradigm for keyboard or mice. iPad will be picked up when we do what I would call not just a touch-enabled, but a touch-first user interface [for Office]. That is in progress … for both Windows 8 and other platforms."

But there have been recent signs that hint that the company may be backing away from building a native version of Office for non-Microsoft mobile devices, including the iPad and Android products.

According to another report in Computerworld, Microsoft Chief Marketing Officer Tami Reller recently offered this response to a question about Ballmer's promise:

“With Windows, we're obviously spending a lot of time thinking about how we continue to differentiate the full Windows experience, particularly as we think about our partners and how we differentiate for them to pick Windows over Android,” she said.

Computerworld’s Preston Grella interprets those words as meaning that instead of releasing Office for third-party computing platforms (as Microsoft already does for the Mac), Redmond will instead use the popular productivity suite as a way to differentiate its Windows tablets and persuade people to purchase those rather than iOS and Android tablets.

That’s not the case, however, according a ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley. In an article published this week, Foley writes that Office for iPad is far from dead. In fact, it’ll likely ship ahead of a touch-version of Office for Microsoft devices.

“I still haven't heard exactly how Microsoft will make Office for iPad available,” adds Foley. “I've heard it's likely to require some kind of Office 365 subscription (either corporate or Home Premium, depending on the use case).”

An Office 365 connection for a version of Office for the iPad isn’t hard to envision, as Office Mobile for iPhones and Android smartphones currently requires an Office 365 subscription.

“Don't believe the naysayers,” Foley concludes. “Office for iPad is coming. And sooner than many think.”