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Microsoft CEO Nadella to unveil Office on iPad next week

Gregg Keizer | March 19, 2014
Long wait almost over, reports claim; the hard work of selling the suite to begin

Those online apps were good enough until apparently they weren't.

Analysts, both those from the technology industry as well as from Wall Street, have long urged Microsoft to free Office from its Windows chains and make the suite available on other platforms, particularly the iPad, with some placing big bets that Microsoft could rake in billions. As Baller announced his retirement, and Nadella took his place six weeks ago, they renewed those appeals.

Instead, Tami Reller, Microsoft's then-marketing manager, seemed to hedge last month when asked about Office on the iPad, repeatedly using the word "thoughtful" to describe the release planning and timing. That caused ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley -- who yesterday cited anonymous sources when she said that Nadella was probably going to announce the suite next week -- to counter that Office on iPad was closer to release than most thought, and would occur before mid-year, before Ballmer's promised touch-first version for Windows.

If Nadella does lead an announcement next week, it will show that Foley was right and that Reller, now heading for the door at Redmond, was simply dissembling.

Microsoft may announce Office on the iPad March 27, but there's no guarantee that it will be for sale or download then: Microsoft has a habit, more than many of its rivals, of pre-announcing software before it's publicly available.

When Office on the iPad does hit the market, virtually every analyst believes that Microsoft will tie it to Office 365, just as it did the iPhone and Android versions of Office Mobile last summer.

In an interview last week about Microsoft's overall Office strategy, Wes Miller of Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash. research firm that covers only Microsoft, reaffirmed his belief that Office on the iPad would require an Office 365 subscription.

Office 365 is Microsoft's software-as-a-service program which charges consumers $70-$100 annually and businesses $150-$364 per user per year to run the suite on one or more devices. The sudden unveiling last week of Office 365 Personal, a new $70 per year plan for home users, was seen as a harbinger of Office on iPad, as it allowed customers to install applications on one PC or one Mac, and one tablet.

"I would expect Microsoft to link Office [on the iPad] to [Office] 365 as it would have a wider impact on the ecosystem, and also as it would better fit in the 'cloud picture' Nadella has painted already," said Milanesi. "I would say [that's] a necessary move to make sure their ownership of the enterprise business does not weaken."

"Ecosystem" has been a buzz word of analysts lately. When Microsoft shipped a new free version of OneNote for the Mac yesterday, and simultaneously ripped the price tag from the note-taking application for Windows, experts pegged it as an "ecosystem play," a move to make Microsoft's entire spectrum of devices, software and services more attractive to customers.

 

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