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Satya Nadella's first big move as Microsoft CEO is Office for iPad

NEW DELHI: Microsoft took its time but it has finally accepted that iPad and iPhone are popular devices. On Thursday it announced a change in how it offers its services and said that MS Office is now available to iPad users.

In his first major press conference as CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella said that Microsoft will work to serve "users and organisations across devices" and not just those who use a computer or tablet powered by Windows. As the first example of Microsoft's new direction, Nadella then announced that the company is bringing MS Office, a popular productivity suite, to iPad.

The Office suite includes separate apps for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and will be available on the App Store starting 11:30pm IST.

The three Office apps will be free to download and will allow reading and presenting without the need to subscribe to Office 365. A subscription will also enable editing features.

The Office apps feature an interface similar to the Windows and Mac versions but have been optimised for a touchscreen. Unlike the Office for iPhone app that allows basic editing, the Office for iPad apps offer advanced features including full file compatibility with desktop versions, support for re-flowing, and formatting.

Nadella said the vision with MS Office 365 was to make sure that a billion users could access it from any device and not only from a Windows device.

"We're bringing Office, the gold standard in getting things done, to the iPad. A billion people rely on Office every day, and we've worked diligently to create a version of Word, Excel and PowerPoint that delivers the best productivity experience available on the iPad. It's built from the ground up for touch, is unmistakably Office in its design, and is optimized for iPad," he wrote in an official blog post, that appeared on the Microsoft website after the press conference ended in San Francisco.

Microsoft has been criticized for not bringing Office, which is arguably the most popular software made by the company, to iPad. In its absence, apps like Kingsoft, Zoho and Apple's iWork apps (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) have thrived on mobile platforms. In fact, Apple now offers its iWork Office apps free with new iOS devices. This also means that Office for iPad will face competition from these apps.

Unlike on the computers, where users have not been exposed to other productivity suites, iPad and Android tablet users have learned to live with other apps. This will pose problems for Microsoft because many users may not like to pay the hefty fee for Office 365 when they can get a basic productivity app for free or for less than $5.

Recently, Microsoft had also announced a new cheaper Office 365 subscription service option, Office 365 Personal.

Priced at $6.99 a month, the Office 365 Personal subscription service provides access to the Office 2013 applications and is valid for just one computer and one tablet. .

The $9.99-per-month Office 365 Home Premium subscription allows users to use the service across up to five PCs/Macs and five mobile devices.

In India, Office 365 subscription for Home Premium version costs Rs 420 per month or Rs 4,199 per year.

It is also worth pointing out that Microsoft still doesn't offer touch optimized, Modern UI version of Office for Windows tablets. The company had introduced Office 365 apps for iPhone and Android phones, last year but the apps lacked full functionality and were only available to Office 365 subscribers.

At the press conference, which was livestreamed on the web, Nadella said that Microsoft will focus on three segments - end users, developers and IT professional.

While Office on iPad is targeted at end users, for developers and IT professionals Microsoft unveiled two other tools. Microsoft showed a service that will allow companies to install and manage a number of organization-specific apps on an Android device. It also demoed Azure Active Directory that will help IT professionals manage user profiles in an organization across devices.

Nadella reiterated that mobile and cloud computing will be the focus of Microsoft in future.

"The cloud is enabling a world where you can walk up to any supported device, sign in, collaborate, communicate and share your creations with the world. Doesn't matter what you make, where you make it or what device you use. The cloud is there to help," he wrote in the blog post. "That's where we're headed together. Into a world where the devices you love work with the services you love in a way that IT and developers love."

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