Microsoft Remains Mum About Office For iPad

Microsoft continues to neither confirm or deny a rumor that has circulated for over a year now about whether Microsoft will bring versions of its popular office suite to Apple’s iPad. The rumor stated that Microsoft was aiming to release Office for iPad in March of 2013.

“We don’t take it from the point of view, ‘Do we need to have the PC software that’s running on every single device?’, we look very much at ‘What is the experience that we are looking to have on those devices’,” Kurt DelBene, President of the Microsoft Office Division, said yesterday when questioned about Office on the iPad during a Morgan Stanley webcast.

Reuters reports that DelBene side-stepped iPad-related questions throughout the webcast, as Microsoft has done in public for some time now. Adam Holt, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, estimated earlier this month that a release of Office on iPad could bring Microsoft $2.5 billion in revenue. Office already brings in more money than Windows, but Microsoft is not quick to sacrifice Windows sales to grow its Office revenue. Plus ZDNET reports that part of the problem stems from Microsoft’s unwillingness to pay Apple’s 30 percent commission on apps sold through its App Store.

Microsoft has recently begun a heavy push of Office 365 and the online capabilities it brings to Microsoft’s office suite. Office 365 now competes with Google Drive by allowing users to store documents, spreadsheets, and presentations using Microsoft SkyDrive and edit them inside any browser. Microsoft wants to prevent Google from threatening its profitable Office business and is very open about it:

Microsoft’s competition with Google comes at Apple’s gain. Office 365 may take away a perk of switching to Google Drive, but it also means Office 365 can now be accessed by any device with a web browser. However, the online version of Office 365 is missing many features found in the native version, which is why many people still hope for a native release of Office for the iPad. Office software is already available for Mac OS X, so such a release would not be unprecedented.

“We’ve actually done a lot of work on iOS devices this time around,” DelBene said. “We have enhanced the web applications pretty substantially, in partnership with Apple.”

Apple-iWorkStill, the concern remains that a native release on the iPad would remove a key selling point of Microsoft’s Surface tablets and the newly released Windows 8. iOS is a more mature ecosystem, and offering a native version of Office in the Apple App Store would be seen by many as fixing one of iOS’s few weaknesses. Apple already provides iWork for the iPad, but the functionality is not on par nor are documents interchangeable.

“We’re very happy with the product that we’re putting in market,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told Bloomberg last month, side-stepping their question about Office appearing on the iPad. “It makes sense on the devices like the Mac and the PC. We have a product that we think makes a lot of sense. We do have a way for people always to get to Office through the browser, which is very important. And we’ll see what we see in the future.”

During the webcast, DelBene directed a questioner towards either purchasing a Surface tablet or using a web-based version of Office on their iPad. Microsoft is willing to work with Apple, but Microsoft is not quite ready to throw such weight behind the company that surpassed it to become America’s most valuable company last year.