Here's why Office for the iPad is a long way off...if ever

Some analysts believe that Microsoft could reap billions by releasing Office for the iPad, but there's increasing evidence that such a release is likely a very long way off, if it ever happens.

Multiple analysts say that Microsoft could gain billions of dollars in additional revenue by releasing Office for the iPad and Android. Recently, hedge fund ValueAct Holdings LP took a $1.9 billion stake in Microsoft, and soon after that, publicly said that Microsoft should release iPad and Android versions of Office.

Back in February, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Holt said that Microsoft could get an additional $2.5 billion in Office revenue by releasing Office for iOS. And early this spring, Gerry Purdy, principal of MobileTrax, said that Microsoft could gain get an additional $1.25 billion in revenue in the first year Microsoft releases iOS and Android versions of Office, and $6 billion in annual revenue by 2017.

Those numbers are overinflated, because they don't take into account that Microsoft would likely link iPad and Android apps to its Office 365 subscription service rather than sell them as standalone apps.

Still, there's clearly plenty of money to be made by releasing iPad and Android versions. But it's become clear that it's very unlikely Microsoft will be releasing them in the foreseeable future...or ever.

Earlier this month, Bill Gates strongly hinted at that, when he criticized the iPad and said that Windows 8 tablets will succeed because they're built to use Office. He said on CNBC:

"It's going to be harder and harder to distinguish products, whether they are tablets or PCs. With Windows 8, Microsoft is trying to gain share in what has been dominated by the iPad type device. A lot of those users are frustrated. They can't type. They can't create documents. They don't have Office there. So we are providing them something with the benefits they have seen that have made that a big category without giving up what they expect in a PC."

Clearly, he believes that having Office on a Windows 8 tablet is a differentiator, and Microsoft will use that to compete against the iPad.

To look for more evidence, just turn on your TV. Microsoft is blanketing the airwaves with an ad that takes a swipe at the iPad as not much more than a silly, time-wasting device, while touting Windows 8 tablets as muscular productivity-boosters. The ad shows a Windows 8 tablet creating and working with Office documents, while the wimpier iPad can only play "Chopsticks" off key -- an ironic attack on iPad ads that show the iPad and iPad Mini playing "Chopsticks" together.

And then yesterday, Microsoft announced that Surface Pro tablets being sold in Japan will come with a complete version of Office. Again, that's clearly a way to compete against the Office-less iPad.

So iPad and Android users, if you're suffering from Office envy, continue to suffer. Until you buy a Windows 8 device, you're not going to be running Office on a tablet for a long time, if ever.

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