If Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announces Office for the iPad as expected this week, he'll signal the company's willingness to finally move beyond its heavy reliance on Windows. But will he go beyond that, and give some indication that this is just the first step in abandoning the company's all-Windows-all-the-time past?
Expectations are high that Nadella will announce Office for the iPad -- so much so that in the less than two months since he was appointed CEO, Microsoft stock has been up 11 percent, and is at a 14-year high. As to how much revenue Office for the iPad might bring in, that's all over the map. Previously, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Holt said he thought Microsoft could get $2.5 billion in new Office revenue from it. Gerry Purdy, principal of MobileTrax, estimated that Microsoft could gain an additional $1.25 billion in revenue in the first year Microsoft releases Office for the iPad and Android tablets, and $6 billion in annual revenue by 2017. Raimo Lenschow, an analyst at Barclays, showed just how little anyone really knows about how much revenue will be brought in, when he told Reuters that Microsoft could see between $840 million to $6.7 billion from it.
Just as important as the revenue is the signal that Nadella is willing to break Microsoft from the bonds of Windows. The only reason the company has held off releasing Office for the iPad up until now is that it hoped that by doing so, it could give a boost to Windows tablets, which run Office.
Forrester's J.P. Gownder told Reuters:
"This is something that should have happened a few years ago. Holding Office for iPad as a hostage in the tablet war didn't work out well for them. They have to start to undo this negative behavior."
Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets added:
"The fact that Nadella is going to pull the trigger (on Office) shows he's not just an insider that's going to continue the status quo. Right now, it's a blank sheet of paper."
So when Nadells makes the announcement later this week, it's important to hear his reasons for launching Office for the iPad, and also to see if he hints at willingness to take other steps that would be good for Microsoft, but might endanger Windows -- for example, allowing Nokia to bet even more heavily on Android phones, and supporting Android-Windows dual-boot devices.
I don't expect him to address those or similar issues directly. But it'll be important to read between the lines, and see if he's really going to break with Microsoft's past.