Office for iPad set for release once Windows tablet version drops

Microsoft Office 2013

Microsoft Office will be made available to iPad users, CEO Steve Ballmer has confirmed, but not until a touch-enabled version of the productivity suite is launched for Windows tablets.

Ballmer made the revelation during a speech at the Gartner Symposium ITXpo in Orlando, Florida, in front of an audience of CIOs, many of who are Microsoft customers.

The software is primarily designed for use with a keyboard and mouse, he said, but the company is working on touch-enabled version for tablet users.

"iPad will be picked up when...there's a touch first user interface," he said. "That's in progress for Office."

The software giant released an iOS app for Office 365 users, allowing them to view and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents using their iPhones, back in June.

Although the online version of its productivity suite was reportedly compatible with the third generation of iPad upwards, the user experience was tailored solely for use with iPhones.

However, a native version of the Office app has been in demand for some time, especially as the take-up of iPads has accelerated among the business user community.

Adam Holt, a Morgan Stanley analyst, claimed earlier this year that Microsoft has lost out on billions of dollars by failing to release an Office application for iOS users.

According to his firm's calculations, the software giant could be making an extra $2.5 billion a year through the release of an Office for iPad app.

"Office on iPad could be a several billion dollar opportunity," Holt wrote in a research note at the time.

"While [Microsoft] has resisted offering a full version of Office for the iOS, the company may ultimately decide there is more upside with Office on iPads, particularly if Win[dows] tablets fall short of expectations."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.