Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) shares are soaring sky-high today. The stock jumped as much as 4.8% overnight before settling down to a still-impressive 3.8% one-day gain.
The price move adds 10 points to the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI), driving the index higher while investors wait on notes from today's Federal Open Market Committee meeting. It's not the Dow's biggest points gainer, because Microsoft's roughly $40 share price makes it an afterthought in this price-weighted system.
Visa (NYSE:V) shares are up just 0.9% on nothing but general market buzz and Brownian motion, but Visa's triple-digit share price translates this small change into a 13-point Dow boost.
Unlike Visa, Microsoft actually has some solid news behind its single-day gain.
Newly appointed CEO Satya Nadella is taking the bull by its horns. Nadella has scheduled a press conference for March 27, and Reuters' anonymous sources say that he'll use this event to launch a brand new version of Microsoft Office designed to run on Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPads.
Yes, this is big news.
Apple has shipped about 145 million iPads to consumers, creating a very large computing platform that Microsoft has left untapped so far. Sure, you can use Microsoft's online Office suite on the iPad's Safari browser, but that's a far cry from selling a fully featured Office suite for Apple's tablets.
It's unclear how much Microsoft might charge for iPad-optimized Office tools, but the market reaction isn't really tied to hard numbers anyhow. Nadella unveiling an iPad-bound Office version would be more of a directional statement, demonstrating that Redmond now is open to exploring and exploiting rival platforms. To date, Microsoft has been forcing the unpopular Windows 8 and Windows RT environments on would-be mobile users with productivity needs.
So Microsoft is about to open up a brand new market. It'll be a little uncomfortable at first since Microsoft doesn't control the iPad's software environment, but then Satya Nadella is not Steve Ballmer. This is Nadella's chance to show that he's less of a control freak and more open-minded about working with the competition. If he delivers on that as-yet unspoken promise, Microsoft will carve a respectable place for itself in the post-PC era.
That's probably worth more than 10 measly Dow points in the long run, but investors are only working with a rumor at this point. That Mar h 27 press conference could unlock a much bigger gain, if Nadella plays his cards right.
Anders Bylund has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Visa. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Visa. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.