The Windows Apocalypse: Here's why Microsoft is releasing Office for the iPad

If you're confused why Microsoft is releasing Office for the iPad, look no further than Gartner's latest survey, which finds that PC sales will continue to plummet, while tablets continue to skyrocket. And there's no end in sight.

The Gartner survey found that shipment of traditional PCs will decline by 6.6% in 2014, to 276.7 million, compared to 296.1 million in 2013. Then, in 2015, sales will decline yet again, nearly 5%, down to 263 million units. Tablets, meanwhile, will continue their scalding growth, with 38.6% growth in 2014, to 270.7 million units from 195.4 million units in 2013. And in 2015 they'll see growth again, to 349.1 million units.

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All this echoes what IDC found earlier this month. It found that worldwide, PC shipments dropped 9.8% in 2013, the "most severe contraction on record," in IDC's words. In 2014, PC sales will fall another 6% to 296 million from 2013's 315 million.

What all this means for Microsoft is straightforward: If it continues its decades-long Windows-centric strategy, it will become a technology also-ran. Windows isn't where the growth is; Android and iOS are. If Microsoft wants to grow, it needs to focus on operating systems that compete with Windows. And the best way to do that is with Office, which continues to dominate the productivity suite market.

Just take a look at Gartner's projections for sales of devices by operating system from 2013 through 2015. They take into account traditional PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Android devices will jump from 879.8 million devices in 2013 to 1.36 billion in 2015. iOS will grow from 241.4 million in 2013 to 324.5 million in 2015. And Windows will creep up from 325.1 million in 2013 to 379.3 million in 2015.

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So Microsoft had to make its move today bringing Office to the iPad. It was either that or risk becoming irrelevant in the fastest-growing technology market, mobile. Expect that Office for Android tablets will follow.

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