SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella took the wraps off an Office software suite designed for Apple Inc's iPad on Thursday, a widely anticipated move that underscores the new chief's willingness to point the lumbering software giant in a new direction. At a news conference Thursday, executives demonstrated a new “touch-first” version...
SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella took the wraps off an Office software suite designed for Apple Inc's iPad on Thursday, a widely anticipated move that underscores the new chief's willingness to point the lumbering software giant in a new direction.
At a news conference Thursday, executives demonstrated a new “touch-first” version of Office crafted for the iPad, available for download as a free app, though a subscription is needed to let users create or edit documents. Significantly, executives did not demo any software on Windows machines.
Sources have said an iPad-friendly version of Office – which encompasses such popular applications as Word, Excel and Powerpoint – had been ready for years, but the Redmond, Washington-based company had been reluctant to compromise its signature PC operating system. At the time, the sources could not speak because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
However, Microsoft's own efforts to produce a touch-friendly operating system capable of challenging the iPad have floundered with poor sales of its Surface tablet and a general lack of interest from third party hardware makers in making tablets running Windows 8, the latest version of the operating software.
While the technology behind the software is not ground-breaking, the strategy is: it puts Office at the heart of the company's push to become a leading services company across a variety of platforms – possibly at the expense of Windows and its own Surface tablet.
Nadella's willingness to break the Windows tradition, which remains co-founder Bill Gates' most enduring legacy, helped spur Microsoft shares to $40-plus levels not seen since the dotcom boom of 2000.
Wall Street is now guardedly optimistic on a company that, while still garnering billions of dollars in annual profit, risks gradual obsolescence in a mobile-powered tech industry.
Analysts have estimated that Microsoft could rake in anywhere between $840 million to $6.7 billion a year in revenue from an Ipad-native Office.
Microsoft's Office 365 Home Premium, designed for home consumers, costs $100 a year. For businesses it costs from $60 per year upwards, depending on features. Users will need an Office 365 subscription to create documents with the iPad app.
To some investors, steering a new course for such a massive entity – Microsoft is the second-largest U.S. tech company by market value – is a daunting task. Before Nadella's appointment, some investors had hoped for an outsider open to change to take the reins.
But bold moves with Office, and signifying a renewed drive to conquer the mobile arena and 'cloud' computing after years of shackling its best products to PC-centric Windows, are seen as a promising start.
Microsoft shares were holding steady at just under $40 in midday trade.
“The “Nadella era” at Microsoft is off to a good start so far, as the software behemoth veteran appears to be open in his strategy/vision while trying to steer away from the status quo, represents a breath of fresh air for investors,” said FBR Capital Market's Daniel Ives. (Reuters)