Microsoft has had a version of MS Office ready for the iPad for some time now. What's held it up has been the attempt to entice business users over to the Surface tablets instead.
Many customers, observers and even camps internal to Microsoft have lobbied for the opportunity to earn billions ($2.5B by one estimate) by having MS Office on the iPad. However, that would be caving to the popularity of the iPad and admitting defeat.
A fascinating article at Reuters explores the nuances of this decision, now in the hands of the new Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella. "Microsoft poised to fight back as iPad generation shuns Office."
I think it would have been smart to release MS Office years ago because the foundations of how we use the iPad hadn't been fully defined. In time, however, Apple has had the opportunity to further clarify the essence of the modern tablet and developers, living within those guidelines, have developed corresponding apps that conform to the tablet experience.
Over at Microsoft, the thinking was that by restricting MS Office to Windows, the company could entice tablet customers to buy the Surface instead. That strategy failed because users were more interested in the tablet life and the solutions for complexity and security offered by the iPad than they were by MS Office. PCs still exist, after all, for that kind of work.
As the Reuters authors point out, a host of solutions have been developed and virtual standards, like EverNote, defined for the iPad. We went right and Microsoft went into left field in the post-PC era.
I think Mr. Nadella will decide to release MS Office for the iPad, and it will be heralded as a bold move into mobility. Sales will be brisk, thanks to pent up demand. But in the months after release, customers will slowly realize that life with MS Office on the iPad isn't the kind of life they want to live. Other solutions are less expensive, easier to use, and fit better into the quintessential nature of the iPad. MS Office will prove to be a fish out of water for the majority of users who might dabble with it.
Enthusiasm will fade. Tech articles will then shift to tutoring readers how they can achieve all that they need to without the expense and complexity of MS Office.
Microsoft's delay has been fatal, and there's no Hail Mary play here. MS Office is a product that was tuned to a high level of productivity and complexity on desktop and notebooks, PCs and Mac, but it has no fundamental future on a modern tablet like the iPad.
The sooner Microsoft gets into its own unique brand of mobility solutions, the better things will go.
The week's tech news debris is on page 2 where, for the first time ever, I disagree with Jean-Louis Gassée.