OUTGOING Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has let slip that Microsoft Office for the iPad is on its way, although it's unlikely to arrive any time soon.
Speaking at a Gartner event in Florida this week reported by The Verge, Ballmer revealed that Microsoft is developing a version of Microsoft Office for the iPad.
He said, "Word, Powerpoint and Excel are all authoring tools. They are optimized for use with keyboards and mice. The last time I checked, the iPad didn't have a paradigm for keyboard or mice.
"[The] iPad will be picked up when we do what I would call not just a touch-enabled, but a touch-first user interface [for Office]. That is in progress...for both Windows 8 and other platforms."
While there's already an iPhone version of Microsoft Office available, this is the first time the company has mentioned developing it for Apple's iPad, despite it having long been called for by users of the tablet. However, as Ballmer's comments suggest, it seems Microsoft is plotting to bring touchscreen friendly Office apps to its own Windows 8 operating system first, likely to make its Surface tablets more appealing to buyers.
Ballmer didn't reveal any more details about the upcoming Microsoft Office applications, nor did he drop hints about a release date. However, if speculation is to believed, Microsoft Office for the iPad is likely to arrive in early 2014.
According to analysts, the firm should release the applications sooner rather than later though, with Morgan Stanley researcher Adam Holt claiming earlier this year that the firm has missed out on "billions of dollars" by not releasing Microsoft Office for the iPad.
He said, "Office on iPad could be a several billion dollar opportunity. While [Microsoft] has resisted offering a full version of [Microsoft] Office for the iOS [mobile operating system], the company may ultimately decide there is more upside with [Microsoft] Office on iPads, particularly if Win[dows] tablets fall short of expectations."
During his speech this week, Ballmer added that Microsoft is "working away on all the things you think we should be working away on," hinting that an Android version is also in development. This, according to rumours, will also debut next year. µ