Microsoft may be bringing Office to the iPad next year, according to a report in The Daily.The report cites unnamed sources, and says that Microsoft will also update its version of Office for the Mac next year.
On a business level, it might make sense — the iPad is making inroads into enterprise, and having some sort of Office client available for it would let Microsoft earn at least some money from these Apple invaders. It would also help ensure that Office 365 — the company’s cloud-based business services — would work on the iPad.
Microsoft might even do this at the risk of driving some enterprise customers to stick with iPads instead of adopting Windows 8 tablets. After all, Office and related back-end products has been driving Microsoft’s growth for the last year, while Windows sales have been pretty stagnant. And Microsoft has built a version of Office for the Mac for more than a decade now.
But there are a couple possibly relevant facts that the report did not mention:
- OneNote came out for iOS in January. OneNote, a note-taking app, is now considered one of the four core Office apps — Excel, Word, and PowerPoint are the others. In January, Microsoft released a version of OneNote for the iPhone. It works on the iPad, but isn’t optimised for it. Perhaps Microsoft is simply creating an iPad-specific version of OneNote. Or maybe that really was the first wedge.
- Microsoft has NEVER released Office for the Mac in the same year (or before) Office for Windows. Microsoft is heads down building Office 15 for Windows. It’s going to be a ton of work — in particular, Microsoft will have to revamp it to work with the Windows 8 tablet interface, or risk having it relegated to traditional PCs only (and having one less reason for customers to choose Windows 8 tablets). The Mac version of Office almost always comes a year after the Windows version. It COULD be different this time, but that would require a diversion of resources to a minority platform (the Mac still has less than 5% market share for personal computers).
Microsoft didn’t exactly deny the report, saying through a spokesperson:
“We already deliver Office on multiple platforms and devices and are committed to expanding in the future, but have nothing further to share today.”
That little bit — “committed to expanding in the future” — is worth noting. There are only a few major platforms out there, and Office is already on three of them: Windows, Windows Phone, and the Mac. Or four if you include OneNote on iOS. So expanding to the iPad is not crazy.