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Microsoft plays catch up yet again; this time, with Office for iPad

Alas…Microsoft is playing catch up yet again.

This time the industry buzz is about exiting CEO Steve Ballmer’s keynote comments at this week’s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in which he finally acknowledged Microsoft would be coming out with an Office for iPad version.

But the company already has lost substantial revenue since the iPad came out three years ago by not having an Office for iPad app, and it doesn’t sound like the suite is coming out any time soon.

Microsoft says its wants to make sure an Office version is truly touch-enabled whether it’s for the iPad or even Windows 8. A Windows 8 touch version of Office is slated for 2014 but in the meantime, frustrated users seek Office alternatives.

Some theorize that Windows 8 could have even had a better response from day one.

The problem is Office, says Robert Enderle, principal analyst of the Enderle Group, a long-time consultant in the IT industry. Office hasn’t even been converted to the Windows 8 interface, he said.

So the constant waiting drives software entrants to fill the holes created by Microsoft’s lack of a true touch-enabled Office suite. Indeed, the recent spate of office collaboration tools like those from CloudOn and others fill a gap for office productivity tools running on mobile devices that support the Office document formats.

But even as Ballmer finally states Microsoft’s intent to deliver Office for iPad, end users may not be interested in paying for what could potentially turn out to be a pricey package.

Now, Microsoft is waving its hands to gain attention. In fact, a few days after rival Apple said it would give away iWorks for free on its new iOS devices and Google said it would offer QuickOffice for no charge, Microsoft blogged that its Office for Web apps was also free.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, end users may have lost interest already, even if Ballmer’s booming voice finally tells them what they want to hear;  Office for the iPad is in progress – but it may be too little, too late.


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