Microsoft Office is at last coming to the iPad, marking an important step for the software giant as it races to catch up with the move to mobile. Microsoft general manager Julia White said that as of 11am Pacific Time on Thursday, key Office programs Word, Excel and PowerPoint would be available on the App Store for the iPad. Microsoft’s popular email application, Outlook, was notably absent from the list of available programs. The apps are free but users will require a subscription to Microsoft’s Office 365 service to use them.
The announcement marked a move away from Microsoft’s policies under Steve Ballmer to keep software services locked to Windows devices. New CEO Satya Nadella took the stage for the first time at a press event in San Francisco, saying Microsoft wanted to” empower people to be productive and do more across all devices… Office 365 will be everywhere from here on out.” Microsoft had earlier invited press to an event to hear “some news related to the intersection of cloud and mobile.”
Microsoft is betting that distributing Office through the iPad will entice users of the Apple tablet away from popular productivity services like Apple’s iWork and Google Docs, and boost Microsoft’s annual revenues. Analysts at Jefferies have predicted Microsoft could add $4 billion in revenue to its current annual sales of $78 billion by bringing Office to the iPad.
But much depends on how intuitive the new Office features are, all of which will come under intense scrutiny by users, technology reviewers and journalists over the next few days.
Microsoft’s announcement comes at a time when consumers are increasingly using productivity apps on their mobile devices, according to Flurry, a mobile analytics and advertising company. The amount of time consumers spend on productivity apps has more than doubled from last year to five and a half minutes, Flurry said. While that sounds small, Flurry says the category’s growth rate is eclipsing messaging, gaming and news, year-over-year.