Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has announced Microsoft Office for iPad in his first public appearance since being appointed to the role in January.
The move, described by the software giant as a "mobile-first, cloud-first approach", marks a shift in strategy for the company, which is now led by its former head of Cloud and Enterprise. It will see Microsoft Office available on non-Windows mobile devices for the first time.
Office for iPad offers users the opportunity to use Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, each of which have been optimised for touchscreen use on Apple tablet devices. Microsoft also revealed free Office Mobile apps for iPhone and Android phones.
"Microsoft is focused on delivering the cloud for everyone, on every device. It's a unique approach that centres on people - enabling the devices you love, work with the services you love, and in a way that works for IT and developers," said Nadella.
The applications were made available to iPad users almost immediately after the announcement, with Office 365 subscribers able to use Microsoft Office for iPad free by selecting their tablet as one of their chosen devices.
It is a move that seems to have been well received, with Microsoft Word becoming the most popular free application download in Apple's App store within hours of the Nadella's announcement.
The availability of Microsoft Office for the Apple iPad ought to help promote the device as a viable tool in the workplace.
Richard Acreman, CEO of technology services company WM360, said the arrival of Microsoft Office for iPad is long overdue.
"Microsoft's very belated launch of Office for the iPad is too late, but it may not be too little. The long wait preceding this launch has fuelled a wide array of copycat products, which have filled the void Microsoft's silence has left, but Microsoft nevertheless remains the undisputed leader in the space," he said.
However, Acreman warned that Microsoft needs to get its strategy right in order to fully take advantage of its tools on iOS-based devices.
"Its pricing strategy will be vital. If Microsoft launches Office for iPad as a free app then it forces the question: why not download the ‘real' Office? If, however, Microsoft chooses to 'monetise' the app on a par with the PC version of Office, it may wind up pricing itself out of the market before it ever gets a foothold," he said.
The announcement will raise questions about Microsoft's own plans in the mobile device market. Previously, one of the major appeals of the Microsoft Surface Pro tablet device range was that it was fully compatible with Microsoft Windows, while the Surface 2 offered a version of Office bundled in.
However, if the decision to bring Microsoft to iPad proves too successful, then it might be considered as something which could lose both the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro their unique place in the market.
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