The release of Office for the iPad is an even bigger deal that it might seem. It means for the first time, Microsoft has released a version of its software for a competing operating system rather than its own -- a truly touch-based Office isn't yet available for Windows 8. Is this a sign of things to come?
Office for the iPad is the first truly touch-based version of Office you can buy. So if you're a fan of a touch interface and want to use Office, at the moment it's iPad is your only choice. Microsoft has been working on a touch-based Windows 8 version of Office for quite some time, but has yet to say when it will be available.
As big a surprise as Microsoft releasing a version of the iPad was, a bigger surprise is that Microsoft has been willing to release it before the Windows 8 version. It gives the iPad a feature that Windows 8 doesn't have -- touch-based Office.
It also makes me wonder why the iPad version is ready before the Windows 8 version. You can be sure that Microsoft has given high priority to a Windows 8-based version of Office, likely a higher priority than the iPad version. If so, why is the iPad version ready before the Windows 8 one?
If the answer is that it's easier to develop the app for the iPad than it is for Windows 8, Microsoft is in trouble. There's already a serious app gap between Windows 8 and iOS. If even Microsoft can't develop an app for Windows 8 before it can develop one for the iPad, that doesn't bode well for ever closing that gap. It might be, though, that Microsoft is working on features for the Windows 8 version that you won't find on the iPad version. If so, though, Microsoft isn't talking.
No matter the reason, Microsoft has clearly dissed Windows 8 by releasing Office for the iPad before Office for Windows 8. And that's a good thing. It shows that the company is no longer Windows-centric, and is willing to allow each of its products to succeed on its own, rather than be bound by the needs of another Microsoft product. And in the long run that's good for Microsoft as well as its customers.