Earlier this week, Hell froze over as Microsoft finally announced availability of Office for Apple's iPad. The announcement wasn't exactly out of the blue, of course, but it is no less significant despite the lack of surprise. The fact that Office apps have quickly climbed the charts on Apple's App Store speaks volumes about the importance of this move.
As you may well expect, the Office apps on the iPad are not as fully featured as their full desktop Office counterparts, with many features not available on the tablet software. One such feature is the ability to print, which Office for iPad does not yet support.
Microsoft told PCWorld in a statement that "Office for iPad was designed from the ground up for the iPad and for the productivity scenarios that an iPad is well suited for." Indeed, it is worth bearing in mind that iPads and other tablets have been widely introduced to organisations around the world as a tool to reduce reliance on paper copies and cut down on printing, so it is perhaps unsurprising that Microsoft viewed this as a low-priority task for Office on iPad.
Over on WinSuperSite.com, Paul Thurrott pointed out that Microsoft first discussed the new software with him by saying: "This is not a blown-up version of Office Mobile, nor is it a shrunk-down version of Office for Windows or Mac; it was designed just for iPad." Paul adds that Microsoft's Michael Atalla told him that the company "looked at the core scenarios for the iPad, the ones that would make the most sense for the device. We also did a lot of user testing, and feel like we really nailed the feature set."
By the sound of it, the research and analytics that Microsoft carried out indicated that printing documents from an iPad wasn't exactly a killer feature for the majority of users. But Microsoft isn't being stubborn about this, and company reps implied that the feature could be introduced in the future, if that's what users want.
The company said that it will "absolutely continue to update the app on a regular basis", echoing similar comments made earlier this week by Julia White, general manager for Office, who said: "We'll watch really closely and see how people are using these apps, and you should expect us to iterate very fast."