Today new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivered his first presentation as the company’s chief executive. After years of waiting, the company introduced a version of its Office suite for the iPad. The software consists of suite hallmarks Word, Excel, and Power Point. What’s more, the apps are a completely native experience for the iPad. Without further introduction, let’s take a look.
A New Microsoft Built Around the Cloud
It hasn’t been that long since Steve Ballmer left the big office in Redmond, but there is already a different feel to the air. Satya Nadella’s Microsoft seems less focused on marketing titles and more practical. That is a bit of a fallacy though, as the iPad versions of Office and other announced products would have had to been in development during the later stages of Ballmer’s rein. Still, the presentation had a more mature style that was based around one fact: The future is based on the cloud and on mobile. The later is an area where Microsoft’s own products are less than competitive. The iPad is the most widely used tablet device in business.
If Microsoft is to remain fully competitive in business, they have to embrace the platforms their customers use, not the ones they want them to use. Not having a fully compatible version of office for the iPad has weakened their hold on the office productivity market instead of selling more Windows tablets. It’s allowed competitors like Google to wiggle their way into the market. Bringing office to the iPad is a big step forward in getting Microsoft in the right direction.
Office for iPad: Mobile First and Only
It’s not very often that a non-Microsoft platform is the spearhead for a new paradigm, but that is the case with Office for iPad. While the suite exists for Windows 8 and RT tablets, it’s not a true mobile app. It’s the desktop version of Office with some touch enhancements. It’s been pretty clear that this didn’t work. The iPad versions are the first versions designed specifically for a mobile touch interface on any platform. Microsoft firmly hinted that this interface would be showing up on the next Windows release and presumably Android tablets as well at a later date.
Microsoft is promising a no-compromise experience. The apps are designed to be fully compatible with desktop office documents and features while having an interface that fully takes advantage of touch. Yet at the same time, the interface is similar enough to the desktop ribbon interface to make it an easy transition. Apple tried this with the latest versions of iWork last fall and had to pair down the feature set. Microsoft instead added features like a faux-laser pointer for presentations and real time recommendations for charts. Your formatting will remain from the desktop versions and vice versa. Microsoft has been accused of half-hearted efforts before for other platforms, but this doesn’t seem that like at all. The company looks to be fully committed a great Office experience on all platforms. There’s good reason for that.
Office 365: The New Hope
The pricing structure for the Office apps for iPad is pretty easy to understand: They really want you to subscribe to Office 365. The apps themselves are free, but without a subscription they are little more than document readers. It makes sense, they want you paying that monthly free and they want you using Sky Drive. Microsoft isn’t selling software here, they’re selling cloud services and productivity apps as a platform. This makes a lot of sense for the customer as well. If you’re using it on several platforms, it’s easier to pay an all encompassing recurring fee than to worry about licenses.
The day has arrived, Office for iPad is here. This day also represents a change in who Microsoft is: They are no longer just the Windows company. They are a business services and cloud company. Windows is part of that, so is Office 365 and the client apps for all platforms. If you’re an Office 365 customer, go and download it now.
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