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No, Touch Office for iPad Isn't Slapping Surface in the Face

In a week, Microsoft is going to release Office for iPad. Or it won't. It's rumor at this point.

One of the themes for now, however, is the "controversy" that Microsoft would be releasing a touch-first iPad version of Office before releasing a touch-first version of Office for the Surface.

The argument goes that Microsoft is somehow throwing Surface under the bus by prioritizing iPad for Office.

This is a clear case of missing the forest for the trees. One of the core design goals of the Surface RT and Surface 2 was to make them work with Office. With Surface, you got full-featured versions -- better than any touch-optimization workaround for the productivity challenges of a tablet. Office is the whole reason the somewhat kludgey desktop appears at all in the RT version of Windows 8. And the whole Surface device, with its click-in keyboard, was built, basically, to be a tablet that runs Office extremely well.

Could Microsoft make a more touch-optimized version of Office for Surface eventually that improves the experience? Sure, but it's silly to say the company is prioritizing the iPad in any way on that.

Now, what's the long-term differentiator for Surface if iPad has Office, too?

Well, that's a much tougher question. But I'm still not sure that much is changed for Surface if Microsoft finally starts grasping for the Office-on-iPad revenues that it's been leaving on the table all these years. Surface is already decidedly not setting the world afire with sales. The strategy of keeping Office exclusive demonstrably did not work, and that's been clear since long before this iPad decision.

What Microsoft is left with is what it claimed to want for Surface all along: a hybrid tablet that serves as a reference design for OEM partners and a tablet for people for whom productivity is as important as entertainment.

For Microsoft partners, meanwhile, Office on iPad would be nothing but a win. Being able to extend their Office-based solutions to the growing legions of corporate iPad users is all good for the Microsoft channel.

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 20, 2014


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