Mary Jo Foley is reporting that on March 27th, Microsoft is likely going to announce Office for the iPad. We already know that the software is ready to go. Rumor has it that Office for iPad has been ready to go for a long time. Microsoft has been holding back its release because of internal strife over releasing it at all. Another major sticking point is that Microsoft has not yet been able to come up with a version of Office compatible with their own Metro interface. Whatever the case may be, we expect to see it in less than 10 days. Here is what we know, and think we know about what to expect.:
According to several sources of mine, Microsoft's latest timetable calls for the company to finally introduce the long-rumored Microsoft Office for iPad suite of applications before the end of March 2014. This March 27 event sounds like it might be the time and place.
The suite for the iPad is rumored to include only Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, and possibly no other Office client apps. It is expected to be downloaded from the Apple Store but most likely to require a Microsoft Office 365 subscription, similar to the way Office Mobile for iPhone works.
The recently-announced Microsoft Office 365 Personal subscription -- which allows users to install Office on one PC or Mac, plus one tablet -- is expected to add iPads as one of the supported tablet types. (Right now, "one tablet" means "one Windows tablet," only.)
This feels like a product that is DOA. First, everyone expects it to be subscription-based. As such, you will be required to pay $99 per year to use this product. If the product was excellent, you might pay $99 one time. Office for Windows is not excellent, and this will not be as good as that. Budgeting $8.50 per month to use an iPad Application is a big ask. I, for one, will not be answering. I'm a writer and don't mind paying for a good word processor. If I'm not willing to pay Microsoft's ransom, I can't imagine too many iPad users will be.
The second problem is that Microsoft is just not a good software developer. Their applications kind of suck. They have already made Office for iOS. You can find it for the iPhone. It is loved by no one. We have seen OneNote for the iPad which is also done with Microsoft's traditional ham-handedness. Their products lack style and subtlety. They think everything is a Windows desktop, and design everything accordingly. The bloated toolbars take up a major percentage of your precious screen real estate. That strategy severely decreases usability. Microsoft does not seem to know how to make productivity software any other way.
Finally, expect the iPad version to be gimped in some way. Microsoft has invested too much for too long in the notion that the iPad is not for productivity. The key differentiator is that it does not run Office. They are going to want to artificially make the iPad version worse than the upcoming Windows version. They already do this on the iPhone. iOS users have to use the subscription model. Windows Phone and Surface users have no subscription requirement. This is the least I expect them to do with the iPad version.
If Microsoft follows form, there will be no iCloud integration. Instead, you will be forced to use Microsoft's OneDrive for syncing and document storage. It will play nice with none of Apple's services. Because it has been completed for a while, I expect no consideration for iOS 7 and 64-bit computing available on Apple's latest products. I further expect the feature set to be greatly limited compared to the desktop version. Word and Excel have more features than the average person knows what to do with. I doubt Office for iPad will have more features than Pages or Google Docs. It's claim to fame will be better compatibility with the dock format.
Microsoft still has a chance to prove me wrong about all my guesses. But they won't. We will revisit this topic in less than 10 days.