Windows has taken a back seat as Microsoft finally introduces Office for iPad to the world.
Overnight new Microsoft chief Satya Nadella officially took the wraps off Office for iPad, which has been a long time coming. Embracing Apple's iPad is a significant symbolic gesture, more so because Nadella made little mention of Microsoft's own Surface tablets during the presentation.
Even if Surface devices had put a bigger dent in iPad sales, the release of Office for iPad was inevitable – always a matter of when, rather than if. As Nadella takes over the reins at Microsoft, perhaps he felt the time was right to make a bold statement about the software giant's future.
Digital hipsters might argue that Microsoft is already dead, it just doesn't know it, but the truth is that Windows and Office still form the cornerstone of the business world. This said, Apple's popular tablet has made great inroads into that world – a disruptive technology which can force businesses to reconsider where their technological allegiances lie.
The schism between the Apple and Microsoft ecosystems is a pain point for many businesses. Some have embraced Apple's iWork and iCloud, an ecosystem which can be even more restrictive than Microsoft's world. Others businesses have been driven into the arms of more flexible platforms such as Google Apps. But many businesses have stuck with Microsoft, relying on third-party services or Microsoft's stripped-back offerings to tie everything together on the iPad.
Officially bringing Microsoft Office to the iPad was always going to be a double-edged sword for Microsoft. Catering to the needs of loyal Office users rather than further testing their patience could help cement the position of Office in their business. But at the same time it also helps cement the position of the iPad, damaging the Surface's claim to be the best mobile device for Microsoft-centric business users.
I think Microsoft has made the right decision. It's finally time to reward the patience of loyal Office users by offering a slick version of Office on the iPad, rather than continuing to fob them off with stripped-back offerings such as Microsoft Office Mobile. Embracing the iPad also makes an Office 365 subscription look more attractive, which is really the end game for Microsoft.
Windows and Office have long been the twin cash cows which fund Microsoft's other ventures. Denying Office to a multitude of iPad users, just to protect the sanctity of the desktop and better position the Surface tablets, makes little sense in the long run. Like many tech giants, Microsoft is transforming into a services company – illustrated by the strong push towards Office 365 subscriptions. Defending Office's position as the de facto industry standard should be paramount for Microsoft. Holding out on Office for iPad was eventually going to lose more lucrative Office subscribers than it would gain Surface owners.
I expect the release of Office for iPad will be looked back at as a crossroads moment for Microsoft, as new leadership is brave enough to take the company in a new direction. In some ways you could compare it to Apple's post-Jobs decision to release the iPad mini – embracing change and giving the people want they want, rather than issuing the standard "take it or leave it" ultimatum.
Have you been waiting for Office for iPad? Does it reinforce your allegiance to Microsoft's Office, or your allegiance to Apple's iPad?