Steve Ballmer Promises Office for iPad After Touch-Optimized Windows Version

Office for iPad?Soon-to-retire Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said on Tuesday that an iPad version of his company's market-leading Office suite will be released, but only after a touch-optimized version for Windows is released. The Verge reported that Mr. Ballmer made the comments at a Gartner event in Orlando, Florida.

Microsoft released a version of Office for iPhone in June of this year. Office Mobile for Office 365 subscribers is a free app that requires an Office 365 subscription (starting at $79.99 per year), but it's designed for iPhone, and is not available for iPad, not even in iPad's emulation mode.

Microsoft has not said if it will pursue a similar strategy for iPad or if it will release standalone apps. Mr. Ballmer also didn't announce a specific time frame for this theoretical iPad version.

But, this does represent a continuing shift in strategy for Microsoft, which has tried to keep a tablet version of Office in the domain of Windows 8 and its own Surface tablets. The Verge noted that Microsoft COO Kevin Turner has said that Microsoft should seek to, "own the productivity experience across all devices."

Qi Lu, Microsoft's head of applications and services, has said that Microsoft would, "bring these apps to Windows devices, and also to other devices in ways that meet out customers' needs."

Personally, I've long said that if Microsoft wants to make money in tablets it should release a great version of Office for the iPad. Trying to pursue its own tablets—and keeping Office limited to those tablets—has not been successful.

It would appear the company is ready to accept that reality.