Microsoft CEO signals new course with Office for iPad

Mar 29 2014, 02:38 IST
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SummaryCo could rake in up to $6.7 bn a year from iPad Office

Microsoft’s new chief executive officer, Satya Nadella, finally unveiled Office for Apple’s iPad in a polished debut that set him apart from his energetic predecessor while signalling his plans to make mobile apps the top priority at the world’s largest software company.

At a news conference, executives demonstrated a new “touch-first” version of Office crafted for the iPad, available for download as a free app, though a subscription is needed to let users create or edit documents rather than just read them.

Significantly, they did not demonstrate any software on Windows machines, telegraphing a departure from former CEO Steve Ballmer’s focus on the personal computer operating software and its own devices.

“Their absence speaks volumes,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets. “Nadella’s a cloud-centric guy; he’s going to focus on what’s been successful, and where the future’s going. Windows 8 thus far has been extremely underwhelming.”

Nadella kicked off the presentation with a fluid, low-key introduction to Microsoft’s approach to the new mobile, cloud-centric world of computing, in his first public appearance since taking the helm 52 days ago.

Dressed in a black polo shirt and dark jeans, the 46-year-old computer scientist threw in some geek humour and lines of poetry from TS Eliot, marking a change in style from his energetic predecessor Ballmer. His lack of references to Windows indicated a deeper strategic shift.

Nadella gave no indication of when Microsoft would release “touch-first” versions of Office apps for Windows 8, the latest version of the operating software, which he acknowledged had fallen behind in the mobile era.

To create new documents, users will need a subscription to Microsoft’s existing cloud-based service called Office 365. Microsoft’s Office 365 Home Premium, designed for home consumers, costs $100 a year. For businesses it costs $60 or more per year, depending on features. Analysts have estimated that Microsoft could rake in anywhere from $840 million to $6.7 billion a year in revenue from iPad-native Office, although some fear it may have moved too late to grab the attention of many.

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