Microsoft's Nadella May Finally Unveil Office for iPad

A press invitation from Microsoft's CEO adds fuel to rumors that the company will announce a native Office app for Apple's market-leading iPad tablet.

After years of rumors, Microsoft may be finally getting ready to pull the trigger on Office for iPad.

In a March 17 Reuters report, Bill Rigby wrote that a source had indicated that Satya Nadella, Microsoft's new CEO, "may unveil an iPad version of the company's Office software suite on March 27." Nadella's first major press event not only sets the tone for his tenure for the tech press, it will also serve to "launch the company's most profitable product in a version compatible with Apple Inc's popular tablet."

The buzz grew louder after Microsoft officially issued an invitation to the event to members of the press on March 17. Taking place in San Francisco, the gathering promises to reveal "news related to the intersection of cloud and mobile." Nadella will speak at the event, offering context and providing remarks on the announcement.

The news comes just after the company released its OneNote note-taking app for another Apple platform, the Mac. Available at no cost for Macs—as well as PCs and iOS and Android devices—OneNote offers cross-platform note capture, storage and syncing services and competes with the likes of Google Keep and Evernote.

Not long after Steve Jobs in early 2010 first debuted the iPad, which went on to set sales records, analysts and industry watchers have been waiting for Microsoft to capitalize on the explosive growth of the tablet market by offering a version of Office for Apple's tablet. Despite the growing popularity of the iPad both in and out of the workplace, the app never materialized.

According to Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Holt, Microsoft has been passing up $2.5 billion in sales each year by denying iPad users an Office app.

"Office on iPad could be a several-billion-dollar opportunity," stated Holt. "While MSFT has resisted offering a full version of Office for the iOS, the company may ultimately decide there is more upside with Office on iPads, particularly if Win tablets fall short of expectations." Windows tablets did indeed fail to excite consumers. Poor sales of Microsoft's Surface RT tablet caused the company to write off $900 million last summer during its fourth quarter.

Microsoft appeared to be working its way toward an Office App for iPad when it released a native, iPhone-only Office app on June 14, 2013. The free app requires users to have an active Office 365 subscription.

Microsoft is reportedly using the same tactic for the upcoming iPad Office app. Sources have told The Verge's Tom Warren that the "iPad variant of Office will be similar to the iPhone version, and will require an Office 365 subscription for editing." The interface and feature set will bear similarities to the iPhone app, and "document creation and editing is fully supported for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...