Microsoft Word on the iPad? Not so fast, Ballmer says

Despite persistent rumors to the contrary, Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer downplays the imminent arrival of iOS-compatible Office software. 

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks in front of Microsoft products at the Qualcomm pre-show keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in this January 7, 2013, file photo.

One of the great drawbacks to being an iPad user is the lack of a good word processing app in the Apple ecosystem. (Emphasis here on good: although there are a scattering of word processing apps available for the iPad, most of them fall somewhere between middling to just plain poor.) Which is why back in November, we got so excited about the prospect that Microsoft would finally release an iOS version of Office

And it's why we're so disappointed that the whole thing now looks increasing far-off. Speaking this week to Businessweek, Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, expressed happiness with the status quo: Office for PCs and Macs, but not for Apple iPads and iPhones

"I have nothing to say on that topic. We’re very glad with the product, very happy with the product that we’re putting in market," Ballmer said. "It makes sense on the devices like the Mac and the PC. We have a product that we think makes a lot of sense. We do have a way for people always to get to Office through the browser, which is very important. And we’ll see what we see in the future." 

So yes, not quite an out-and-out denial, but clearly an endorsement of the status quo. (It's worth noting that with the subscription-based Office 365, you could technically access Office through the Safari browser on your iPad. But the user experience may not be as good as it would be in a dedicated app.) 

For Microsoft, the strategy may make sense in the short term. Office currently serves as an incentive for consumers choosing between tablets – if you buy a Microsoft Surface, you can get Office, too. If you buy an Apple iPad, you can't. 

A second reason, according to Adrian Kingsley-Hughes of ZDNet: Microsoft's "unfamiliarity" with the app market as envisioned by Apple.

"Microsoft is comfortable with pushing out with a new version of Office every few years, having it replace the older version," Kingsley-Hughes writes. "But this is not how apps work, and buyers -- consumers and enterprise alike -- like the new model of buying an app once and then receiving a continuous trickle of free updates over time. Embracing apps would mean embracing a new way of doing business. This is why we don't have the Office suite on our iPads." 

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