Microsoft Seems To Be Dragging Its Feet In Bringing Office to iPad
Adding Microsoft Office to the iPad would boost the transition of the iPad from a media tablet to a productivity tool for businesses, and sell millions of Office apps.
But, it could also cut into sales of the more expensive Office for PCs and Macs, and give up a potential advantage for tablets based on Microsoft's version of Windows. (Office is already available on smartphones running Windows Phone Series 7 and its predecessor, Windows Mobile.)
Maybe that's why the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant appears to be dragging its feet when it comes to offering an Office app for the iPad.
At the moment, Microsoft is denying a report in The Daily, News Corp.'s periodical for the iPad, that Office for Apple's iOS platform exists in the testing stage and will be available within weeks.
The Daily's Peter Ha said he had used a demonstration version of the new software, courtesy of a Microsoft employee, and said it would soon be submitted to Apple for approval. Ha said the demo was similar to the OneNote app that is already available free from Microsoft via the App Store (with paid features available). OneNote allows limited creation of Office documents.
Ha said demo version he used had "hints" of a new design user interface called Metro that is already used in Windows Phone 7 products and will be a part of Windows 8.
The report follows one in November in which The Daily said Office for iPad was in the works. An analyst told us then that it would likely take some time for Microsoft to pare down a complex system for a lower-performance, smaller capacity system like a tablet.
Microsoft quickly denied the latest report, telling The New York Times it was based on "inaccurate rumors and speculation," and that an image supposedly of a Windows icon was "not our software," declining to comment further.
On Wednesday, Microsoft Tweeted: "Great respect for The Daily but regrettably someone is giving them bad info, and that'll be clear in the coming weeks." That was a reference to The Daily's assertion that Office for iPad would be available in such a time frame.
In response to our own inquiry directed to Microsoft today, an unattributed Microsoft spokesperson replied simply, "We have nothing to share at this time."
'No Fake Images'
Ha on Wednesday stuck to his guns, saying, "We did not fabricate the story, nor did we fake images in any way," insisting that Microsoft employees are behind the leak. He said it was likely that more than one version was being tested, which suggests it could be awhile before Office appears in the iTunes App Store.
Though the two companies are rivals that have faced off in court, Microsoft products have a long history with Apple, going back to 1985 when Word and Excel were released for the first Macintosh computer. Five years later, Microsoft began selling Office for Macintosh, including Word 4.0, Excel 2.2, PowerPoint 2.01, and Mail 1.37.
The road to iPad, however, is a complicated one.
"You could certainly make arguments that are pro and arguments that are con," said technology analyst Michael Gartenberg.
While the massive growth of the iOS environment doesn't help Microsoft, the company must realize, as it did with its Office version for Macs, that millions of consumers aren't going to buy PCs anyway, and those consumers should have access to Office, Gartenberg said.
"There are a whole bunch of people who aren't going to trade in their iPads, so [Microsoft] might as well generate revenue from them," he said. "They also want to make sure the Office file formats remain as the de facto standard."