updated 02:30 am EST, Wed February 27, 2013
Microsoft exec avoids question, suggests Surface, 365 options
The head of the Office division at Microsoft played coy and dodged questions from analysts about plans to release an iPad version of Microsoft Office, stressing the current online versions and suggesting the program as a selling point for the company's beleaguered Surface tablet. Kurt DelBene was asked about the software at a Morgan Stanley technology conference in San Francisco, but instead pointed to iOS versions of some Office add-ons such as OneNote, Lync, SharePoint and its cloud-storage offering SkyDrive.
Wall Street professionals have estimated that Microsoft is leaving around $2.5 billion a year on the table by not producing a version of Microsoft Office for Macs -- which, despite the rich raft of alternatives that are currently available -- would easily be the most popular Office-style productivity suite for the platform. Instead, the company appears to have chosen to make the availability of Office on tablets as a selling point for the Surface line of tablets (where it is included as part of the price). The Surface tablets have thus far failed to find any footing in the iPad-dominated market.
Rumors have the company maintaining -- but sitting on -- a fully-finished Office version for iPad in the hopes that the lack of Office on iOS and Android will drive corporate and enterprise customers to turn to the Surface and other Windows 8 Pro or RT tablets. It is possible that Microsoft will eventually release an iPad version of Office once it has determined that the Surface strategy has failed, or that sufficient time has passed that an iOS version will do more good than harm to the company's efforts.
"We don't take [the question of iOS Office] from the point of view [of] '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'," DelBene said. When asked specifically about availability of Office on the iPad, reports Reuters, DelBene offered Office 365, an online version of the suites that does not feature the full set of Office features and requires an annual subscription. "We have enhanced the web applications pretty substantially, in partnership with Apple," he said.
When pressed on the question by an Excel users, DelBene punted and suggested the user look into the Surface Pro tablets or the Office 365 option. "I think we've done a great job on both the consumer side, particularly with the web apps we're building, and on the enterprise side as well," he said in response.