Office for the iPad: Microsoft, Seize This Opportunity!

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FOLLOW-UP: Office for iPad: The Plot Thickens

People have been wondering whether Microsoft would release a version of Office for the iPad for almost as long as there’s been an iPad. Now Matt Hickey of The Daily has what seems to be compelling evidence that it’s on the way: a photo of an iPad running Office. He reports that it will include Word, Excel and PowerPoint and that Microsoft plans to submit it to Apple for release on the iOS App Store soon. (He also says that it has no plans for an Android version.)

I’m cautiously optimistic about the whole idea. It’s true that we already have three major iPad suites: Quickoffice, Documents to Go and Apple’s own iWork apps. They all do the basics, and offer compatibility with Office’s file formats. If all Microsoft did was release something comparable to them, Office for the iPad might feel redundant.

But there’s lots of potential for Microsoft Office to be something that the existing suites aren’t.

Microsoft should be able to support its own documents better than any competitor. And it could build an Office that was more feature-rich than any of the existing products. (In fact, if Office for the iPad isn’t at least a bit beefier than the competition, it’ll be a disappointment.) It can also use its SkyDrive cloud storage service to permit super-simple sharing of documents with Office in all its other flavors.

Whenever I think about Microsoft writing iPad apps, my mind whirs back to the mid-1980s, when the company unabashedly embraced the original Macintosh and wrote some of the best early programs for it, such as the first version of Excel. Here are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in a 1983 video that you should watch if you’ve never seen it before:


Back in the 1980s, Microsoft didn’t seem to fret that writing good Mac apps would harm DOS (or, later, Windows). Instead, it made the best software for Apple’s platform that it knew how. It made money from Mac users, and learned things that were helpful as it created products for its own platforms. And neither DOS nor Windows suffered a bit.

If Hickey’s right, it’s possible that Microsoft/Apple history could repeat itself all over again with the iPad and Windows 8. I sure hope so.

FOLLOW-UP: Office for iPad: The Plot Thickens