Microsoft enters new era with Office for iPad

ReutersMarch 28, 2014 

SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella took the wraps off an Office software suite designed for Apple Inc.’s iPad on Thursday, a widely anticipated move that underscores the new chief’s willingness to point the lumbering software giant in a new direction.

Office for the iPad corrects layout problems that users experienced when accessing files they had saved on Microsoft’s cloud storage service, OneDrive.

The app has touch-enabled features that allow users to drag photos around Word documents and grab elements like pie charts in Excel.

The app will allow reading and presenting of documents for free, but will require a subscription to Office365 to enable writing and editing. A subscription for up to five computers and five smartphones costs $100 a year, but a personal version for one computer and one tablet costs $70 a year. The subscription includes 20 gigabytes of storage space on OneDrive.

The Office for iPad apps — specifically Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps — went live Thursday morning in Apple’s iTunes App Store.

The apps are free if users only want to view and present documents, spreadsheets and slides.

The Redmond-based software giant unveiled the app at an event in San Francisco where Nadella addressed reporters on his 52nd day as Microsoft’s chief executive.

“This, in a sense, is a cloud for every person and every mobile device,” Nadella said.

Sources have said an iPad-friendly version of Office had been ready for years, but the Redmond-based company had been reluctant to compromise its signature PC operating system.

However, Microsoft’s own efforts to produce a touch-friendly operating system capable of challenging the iPad have floundered with poor sales of its Surface tablet, and a general lack of interest from third-party hardware makers in making tablets running Windows 8, the latest version of the operating software.

The new strategy puts Office at the heart of the company’s push to become a leading services company across a variety of platforms — possibly at the expense of Windows and its own Surface tablet.

Analysts have estimated that Microsoft could rake in anywhere between $840 million to $6.7 billion a year in revenue from an iPad-native Office.

“The ‘Nadella era’ at Microsoft is off to a good start so far, as the software behemoth veteran appears to be showing openness in his strategy/vision while trying to steer away from the status quo, representing a breath of fresh air for investors,” said FBR Capital Market’s Daniel Ives.

The Associated Press and The Seattle Times contributed to this report.

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