Fans of Office have been waiting for an iPad version of the office suite for what seems like an eternity. Some think that it is a pipe dream and it's something we'll never see, but it's looking increasingly likely that release could be not far around the corner. Mary Jo Foley reveals not only the iPad version of Office is code-named Miramar, but that iPad owners could get their hands on an app before there is a touch-optimized version available for Windows.
It sounds as though work has been progressing apace. There were originally rumors that Office for iPad would be released some time in fall of this year; now it is looking like it will be some time in the next five months.
Some people have questioned the need or advisedness of releasing an iPad version of Office in the first place -- but it makes perfect sense. There were large numbers of detractors when Office was first released for Mac, but it would have been madness for such an important set of tools to be kept out of the hands of Mac users. The same is true of mobile versions of apps.
We already have versions of Office for iPhone and Android which tie into Office 365. It would have been surprising if the iPad was just ignored, and just as surprising if the app did not follow a similar pattern. Microsoft makes a decent proportion of its revenue from Office, so it makes complete sense to make it accessible as possible and to enable people to use it on all of their devices -- there is no point in pretending that we live in a world dominated by PCs anymore; the mobile market is stronger than ever.
The iOS market is huge. Really huge. If Microsoft had decided not to produce an iPad app it would have been cutting off its nose to spite its face. Sure, the iPhone user base is massive, but larger screened devices such as the iPad lend themselves better to extended periods of typing, and allow more space for a UI that provides access to a wider range of tools.
But in producing for iPad, Microsoft is not deserting its roots nor diluting its passion or enthusiasm for Windows users. If anything it is strengthening its position. Office may be the industry standard tool, but it is great to see that Microsoft is not sitting on its laurels or becoming complacent. Acknowledging that users are now less faithful than in the past. The number of people using only Microsoft products is dwindling -- Windows may be king on the desktop, but in the mobile arena there are other leaders.
Microsoft knows this. But it also knows that it is the customer that is most important. Providing Office on so many platforms gives users something that has been denied them for far too long -- interoperability and choice. And of course the relentless move to the cloud means that OneDrive is likely to feature prominently in any upcoming mobile version of Office, helping anyone who does work with multiple platforms.
There have been those who have accused Microsoft of cheating on its faithful Windows devotees by widening the net to incorporate other platforms -- but really all it is doing is strengthening Office's position. And this is something that makes everyone a winner.