There have been reports over the past few weeks that Microsoft is working on a version of Office for the iPad. The main downside most think of to selling an iPad Office suite is that Office is the missing piece to the iPad puzzle and that enterprises will flock to the iPad in lieu of Windows 8 tablets once Office becomes available. There are two issues with this scenario: (1) the iPad is doing fine in the enterprise without Microsoft’s help; and, (2) Microsoft shouldn’t care if they make $15 off of Office for iPad or a Windows 8 license.
Office for iPad actually presents Microsoft with a great opportunity. It’s no secret that Windows Phone 7 reviews well but doesn’t sell well. Part of it has to do with a weak marketing effort on Microsoft’s part, but a lack of enthusiasm among frontline sales reps plays a huge role as well. The average consumer walks into a carrier store knowing about the iPhone, but may be swayed to pick up an Android handset at the salesperson’s behest (which in turn is driven by incentives). Windows Phone never enters the conversation.
Windows 8’s Metro interface is reviewing well, as Gruber mentions in a link to Christian Cantrell’s review of Windows 8 Consumer Preview, but again, Microsoft faces a perception problem. iPads and Macs are eating up PC sales, and so many won’t even give Windows 8 a shot.
Now imagine a world where the average consumer walks into the store knowing about the iPhone and having been wowed by Office for iOS’s Metro interface. Office for iOS isn’t going to push Windows Phone to #1 or #2, but at least Microsoft will be back on the radar. Even if users have already chosen the iPad for their tablet, an Office/Metro halo effect can drive those iPad users to Windows PCs and phones.
Along those lines, an iOS version of Office also allows Microsoft to establish a foothold with their own ecosystem – particularly their cloud storage solution, SkyDrive. If a user becomes dependent on Office for iOS and ends up storing all their documents on their personal SkyDrive or their company’s SharePoint server (because that’s all Office for iOS supports), they will likely seek out a PC solution that’s compatible with what they currently have. So would they rather go with a Mac, whose version of Office is usually a year or two behind the Windows version and never offers the same exact features, or go with Windows, whose version of Office receives first-class support from Microsoft and uses that cool Metro interface that they wish all of iOS had?