To Office for IPad or not to Office for iPad


So there were rumors this week that Microsoft was going to ship a version of Office for iPad.

I have no opinion one way or another whether they will or not. But I admit to being intensely curious about it because Microsoft has always used Office as a weapon. If Microsoft makes an iPad version of Office it will say a lot about what they think about the state of the tablet market.

Microsoft is really about two products. Windows and Office. That’s where they make all of their money. Several times now they have pretended to make of Office for some Windows tablet system only to fuck it up abysmally. The product manager of PenWindows complained about this publicly back in the day that he couldn’t get the Excel or Word team to make their products usable on a tablet.

Meanwhile, Apple is so dominant in the tablet space that essentially all the other tablets are essentially single purpose like the Kindle Fire or a “so what?”.

Microsoft’s original play book with Apple went something like this:

  1. Develop software for the Macintosh to learn about how to write for a GUI.
  2. Port that knowledge and software to Windows.
  3. Use Office as a club against Apple, while making Windows the dominant GUI.

Subsequently, I am 100% sure that Microsoft  has Office for iPad written. Microsoft has a whole division called Microsoft Bay whose job is just to spy on Apple and the rest of Silicon Valley. So of course they wrote one if only to scope out the tech. The real questions are:

  • Is it any good? In Microsoft’s my-dick-is-bigger-than-your-dick culture, if I was the product manager for Office unless Steve Ballmer was coming by once a week to tell me it was important, I can guarantee you that I would completely ignore any requests by the Office-for-iPad team. (Duh, this is exactly what happened to Office-for-PenWindows the last time.) Meanwhile, Touch UI’s (TUI) are different then GUIs. I’ve used Pages on the iPad, and even Apple hasn’t quite gotten this right yet. (Though Bento is cool, and a better fit for the iPad). So why would Microsoft get it right?
  • Do they choose to release it? Microsoft doesn’t need the money, and they wouldn’t be developing Office for iPad for the money. It may make more sense for them to sit on Office for iPad than it does to release it. If its good, have it be good on Windows 8. If its bad, have it be bad in private.
  • Are the Windows 8 tablets any good? Since Microsoft doesn’t make hardware, if they’re looking at what the hardware vendors are going to ship, and the price points they’re going to ship them at and they expect none of them to succeed, then they might as well suck it up and ship Office for iPad.

The only way I see Office-for-iPad coming is if Windows8 on tablets suck.

Releasing Office for iPad if Windows 8 tablets are good only benefits Apple, not Microsoft so much. It benefits Apple because then they can say “Look, it runs Office”, which is important to Apple’s perception of the market, because when they launched iPad, they said “Look, you can view Office documents”. 2 years later, it is less important because everyone has gotten used to a platform that doesn’t have “Office”, but I can still see Apple talking it up.

On the other hand, if Windows 8 tablets suck, and are going to keep sucking until Windows 9, then they might as well release Office for iPad. They’ll get money and TUI knowledge they wouldn’t get otherwise. They may not want to endorse Apple by releasing Office for iPad though, so I wouldn’t hold your breath.

So I guess I do have an opinion. My prediction: No Office for iPad even if they’ve developed it. Because releasing Office-for-iPad means admitting that their tablet is crap.


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