The iPad Won't Save Microsoft

Microsoft making Office available on Apple's iPad is too little, too late.

Mar 18, 2014 at 8:30PM

If you can't beat 'em, you may as well develop for 'em. 

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella will host his first press event as helmsman of the world's largest software company next week. The Verge and several other outlets are hearing that Nadella will be announcing the introduction of Office for iPad at the March 27 gathering. 

It's a move that's long overdue, but at this point, it's really just a matter of too little, too late. Let's start off by pointing out that Microsoft Office has been available for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Macs for ages. Last year, Microsoft buckled to the pressure of growing iOS usage, offering up an iPhone version. Next week's iPad version will reportedly be similar to the iPhone edition. It will require an Office 365 subscription for editing, and the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps will offer document creation and editing. 

This would have been big news if it had happened in 2010 when the iPad hit the market or two years later when Google's (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Android had yet to overtake iOS as the world's tablet operating system of choice. It also would have made sense early in the rollout before consumers realized that there were plenty of free or nearly free alternatives to Microsoft's word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations solutions. 

However, Microsoft likely thought that holding back on Office would either give PCs an edge in the mobile computing revolution or make its own tablet platform stand out. It failed on both fronts. PC sales have continued to languish at the expense of smartphone and tablet sales. Surface RT -- Microsoft's shot at the entry-level tablet market that made a tweaked version of Office a differentiator in its marketing -- was a dud. The more full-featured Windows 8-backed Surface has held up relatively better, but that's only a testament to how little Office matters these days.

You can't blame Nadella. Microsoft was too slow to embrace the mobile challenge under Steve Ballmer, and now Nadella is simply trying to make up for lost time and squandered market share. However, it's hard to fathom Office becoming a mobile standard now. It has a shot. There are still a lot of people who use it at work or on their home PCs and laptops. Google hasn't made enough waves with its cloud-based alternatives to topple Office as the top dog in productivity suites. However, the mobile revolution took off without Microsoft's blessing because cranking out text documents, spreadsheets, and graphical presentations just didn't become that important to folks on the go.

Once again, Microsoft is too late.

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Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple and Google. It also owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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