Office for iPad Is Here… With a Catch

After years of debate over whether Microsoft will actually release a version of Office for the iPad, the company is ready to make that move.

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 1.19.26 PMAs expected by many in the tech press, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took to a San Francisco stage March 27 to explain the company’s strategy under his watch; a few minutes into the presentation, Julia White (general manager of Microsoft Office) joined him to demonstrate Office for iPad, and announce that Word, Excel, and PowerPoint would all appear in Apple’s App Store at 2 P.M. EST.

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The software is free to download, but any user who wants to actually edit documents will need a paid subscription to Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity hub. (Viewing the documents is free, meaning someone could use Office to present, say, a PowerPoint deck without paying a cent.)

Also as expected, Nadella revealed that Microsoft would pursue a strategy that centers on cloud and mobile; Office on iPad is clearly the opening salvo of that strategy. Despite its ubiquity among businesses and students, however, can Office on Apple’s popular tablet prove a hit?

That’s the multi-million-dollar question for Microsoft, and it’s not one easily answered at the moment. Had the company launched Office for iPad a few years ago, it could have easily taken a significant portion of the tablet-productivity market; in its absence from the App Store, however, various rivals have built and launched their own productivity products, many of which can crunch words and numbers just as effectively as anything generated by Microsoft. Prospective customers may also balk at the necessity of a paid subscription to Office 365.

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Image: Microsoft