If the rumors are to be believed, Microsoft is on the verge of releasing a version of Office for the iPad.
While an iOS version of Office may have seemed unthinkable a couple of years ago, it could be a key weapon in Microsoft’s fight against Google Docs, Google’s free cloud-based productivity software.
The Daily reported Tuesday that Microsoft is expected to launch Office for iPad in the coming weeks. Citing “sources”along with an image of the app’s home screen, the report says Microsoft will soon submit the app to Apple for inclusion in the App Store. An Android version is reportedly not in the works.
Having a version of Office for iPad would give users a way to stay within Microsoft’s walled garden when viewing documents on their favorite tablet. At the moment, Office users must opt for other methods to open their files on the iPad — with one of the most popular being Google Docs.
Why would users trade free (Google Docs) for functionality (Office)? Microsoft reportedly plans to give users the following reasons to switch.
First, the iPad version of Office is said to borrow elements from Microsoft’s touch-friendly Metro interface, currently on Windows Phone but due to spread throughout the platform on Windows 8. The overall look is said to be similar to the current OneNote iPad app released last year. That app is due for a makeover as well.
Users will be able to work on documents locally or edit them online, presumably via Office 365, Microsoft’s direct competitor with the cloud functionality of Google Docs.
Releasing a version of Office for iPad would be the culmination of Microsoft’s advance into iOS territory. Over the last year and a half, Microsoft has slowly pushed out app after app for iOS devices, a tacit acknowledgement that one of its chief rivals, Apple, was so dominant in mobile that it couldn’t afford to ignore it any longer.
Far from being a surrender, though, the push for Microsoft apps on the iOS platform is intended to seed adoption before Microsoft pushes even deeper into mobile with Windows 8 later this year. When Windows 8 arrives, Microsoft is also expected to release Windows Phone 8, the biggest update yet for the mobile OS. And there will almost certainly be a plethora of Windows tablets from various manufacturers.
Although the initial report says Microsoft could release Office for iPad within weeks, a new desktop version of Windows — Office 15 — is coming later this year, and the version of Windows for ARM devices (also due in the fall) is said to integrate Office functionality. Will the iPad version come months before both of those projects? It’s possible, and there could be a reason behind the timing.
That reason? You. Do you, as an iPad owner, find yourself using Office alternatives on your tablet more and more? Perhaps Microsoft feels that it needs to stem the tide of Office defectors now, rather than waiting for the Windows platform stars to align.
What do you think of the news about Office for iPad? Sound off in the comments.