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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

Microsoft will announce Office apps for Apple's iPad on March 27, according to a pair of reports Monday.

CEO Satya Nadella will take part in his first public press conference starting at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET) that day, according to ZDNet and The Verge, which both reported on the event yesterday. The press conference, which is an invitation-only event, will be "focused on the intersection of cloud and mobile computing," but Microsoft has declined to say more.

The topic is no surprise: On Nadella's first day as CEO, he used the phrase "mobile-first, cloud-first" to describe his strategy for the company.

And the San Francisco location and timing of the press conference are interesting, and bolster claims that Microsoft will trot out Office on the iPad. At the same hour and in the same city, the Macworld/iWorld conference, the country's largest open-to-the-public show focused on Apple, will kick off at the Moscone Center.

Macworld/iWorld is hosted by IDG World Expo, an arm of IDG, the parent company of both Computerworld and Macworld, and will run March 27-29. Neither Microsoft nor Apple are exhibitors at the show.

If Microsoft does pull the shroud from Office on the iPad, it will put an end to years of speculation about whether, and if so when, the company dumps its strategy of linking the suite with Windows in an effort to bolster the latter's chances on tablets.

Under that strategy, Microsoft kept Office for its own Windows tablets, including the struggling Surface and Surface Pro, and those of its OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners as a sales tool. Many outside observers have painted the strategy as a flop, and have pointed to slow sales of Windows tablets of all types as proof.

"I never believed that having Office on a Windows tablet was the key differentiator that Microsoft believed it to be," said Carolina Milanesi, strategic insight director of Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, in an email early Tuesday. "While users wanted it on the iPad, it was not enough [for them] to be wanting a Windows tablet."

Talk of Office on the iPad first heated up in December 2011, when the now-defunct The Daily reported Microsoft was working on the suite, and added that the software would be priced at $10 per app. Two months later the same publication claimed it had seen a prototype and that Office was only weeks from release.

That talk continued, on and off, for the next two years, with Microsoft occasionally dropping hints, such as last October, when then-CEO Steve Ballmer said Office on the iPad would appear, but only after a touch-enabled edition for Windows had been added to the line-up. More often, officials said Office was on the iPad as they pointed to Office Web Apps, the browser-based versions since renamed Office Online.


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