Office for iPad was unveiled today, does it matter?

Microsoft finally unveiled the Office for iPad app at an event today, 27 March, in San Francisco, complete with an entire Office suite that includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Microsoft appealed to iPhone users in the past with an Office app, but it's left iPad users without. Some users have been wanting the iPad version of Office since the iPad launched in April 2010. And now Microsoft is finally giving it to them.

Unlike Apple's iWork suite for iPad, the Office for iPad app isn't a one-time fee. Instead, Microsoft charges for access through its Office 365 program.

Some could argue that if Microsoft released Office for iPad back in 2010, or around there, it could have capatilised off huge sales. But is it too little too late now that Apple, Google, and others have created alternatives to Office that iPad users can take advantage of?

If Microsoft chose not to release Office for iPad, it would potentially have negative impacts on its dominance in the business software space. Microsoft's business division saw $16.2 billion in profit in 2013. And while not all of that is directly contributed by Office - not even a large portion - it does factor into Microsoft's influence on the broader business market.

There are the Microsoft Office loyals - the business and student types - who use it every day and will treat the Office for iPad release like a gift from the heavens. And there are more of those than you might think.

This also could be good for Apple, who has the chance to capitalise off even more business customers. Now that Microsoft is on the platform, more business users will presumably feel comfortable to use the iPad on a daily basis. This translates well for Microsoft - who will see more Office 365 subscriptions as a result.

"It's clear that the enterprise area has huge potential, and we're doing well from a percentage of companies that are using iPhone and iPad," Peter Oppenheimer, CFO at Apple, said on a January conference call. "It's up to unbelievable numbers. The iPhone is used in 97 per cent of the Fortune 500, and 91 per cent of the Global 500, and iPad is used in 98 per cent of the Fortune 500 and 93 per cent of the Global 500."

Office 365, which costs $100 (£79.99) per year for the Home Premium version (there are several small business pricing options too), is believed to have big potential for Microsoft's bottom line. In one year, it’s grown to 3.5 million paying customers. And the iPad version will probably help that number even more.

"This past year we grew Office 365 deployed seats over 350 per cent in FY13 alone," Kevin Turner, chief operating officer at Microsoft, said in September 2013. "It's still accelerating. We're only at the tip of the iceberg of this particular opportunity."

Analyst Ross MacMillan of Jefferies predicts $4 billion of additional annual revenue for Microsoft from the Office unit very soon, and calls it one of the most important parts of the company.

But we have to wonder - what if Microsoft released Office for iPad a lot earlier than it has? You would more than likely have a larger business presence (than there already is) on the iPad. And probably a lot less Surface customers for Microsoft.

Compared to the $4 billion business that is being predicted for Office, how does that compare to Surface revenue - and Microsoft's broader picture of $78 billion dollars in revenue? Not very significant. 

Maybe it's Apple who is really set to benefit more than Microsoft. 



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