Microsoft (MSFT 0.16%) 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 (^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 (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 (AAPL -0.76%) 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.