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March 18, 2014

Microsoft Office coming to iPad this month: three things you need to know about Nadella’s mobile and cloud strategy

Can 'mobile first, cloud first' be a winning formula for Microsoft?

By Ben Sullivan

Microsoft Office for iPad is now rumoured to be announced at a special Microsoft event on March 27, with new CEO Satya Nadella at the helm.

An invitation has gone out to media outlets for "a special cloud- and mobile- focused event" where sources suggest that the software giant will be launching the productivity app for iPad tablets.

The app will likely be similar to its iPhone counterpart, which was released last June. This mean users can view documents like Word, Powerpoint and Excel files for free, but would need a subscription with Office 365 to edit any work.

Office 365 charges a monthly or annual fee instead of a license.

Following the event on March 27, Microsoft will hold its developers conference, called Build, on April 2. It is likely to unveil there the latest update to Windows 8.1, and perhaps even offer a sneak preview of some features Windows 9 might have.

The move by Microsoft to release Office for iPad show us three key concepts for the software giant’s future:

1. Microsoft is shifting more focus to individuals, not just businesses.

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Until recently, Office 365 was geared more towards small businesses buying multiple subscriptions, but now that Office is coming to the iPad, we can assume there will be higher focus on individual users. With the addition of Office 365 Personal, which is cheaper than the Office 365 Home Premium by $3 a month, this further shows Microsoft’s push to attract individual users.

"We recognize that there are households of all shapes and sizes and we’re committed to delivering the right Office for everyone – whether that be one person or an entire household," the company stated on its official blog.

2. Mobile first, cloud first.

The March 27 event will be Satya Nadella’s first public press event, and will kick off his push for the ‘mobile first, cloud first’ strategy. Microsoft’s lack of innovation when it comes to its software on mobile has forced it behind the leaders, with productivity apps like Evernote, Google Apps and Box all taking charge. "It’s not about one single device anymore," said Nadella in a webcast following his appointment to CEO. This backs up Nadella people-centric IT approach where anyone can use whatever device they want, even if those devices are running on iOS or Android.

3. Microsoft has to focus on subscriptions.

After 100 days, Microsoft Office 365 already had 1 million users, with the number now rising to 3.5 million subscribers less than a year later. Moving to iPads is a smart move for Office. If Windows tablets, which are selling not nearly as well as their competitors, could only have value because they are the only way to get hold of mobile Office, users would probably be fickle enough to ignore them altogether and use competitor productivity suites on iOS and Android. At least with this concession, Microsoft can bolster its Office loyalty across a massive user base.

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