Microsoft Office for the iPad: To be or not to be

The Daily stands by its report that Microsoft has created an iPad version of Office, though the folks in Redmond label the story inaccurate.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Is Microsoft cooking up a version of Office for the iPad? News site The Daily says yes, Microsoft doesn't exactly say no but claims that The Daily's story is inaccurate.

Yesterday, The Daily's Matt Hickey reported that he had seen a working prototype of Office on the iPad and that sources indicated the app would soon be sent to Apple for approval.

Microsoft quickly went into denial mode, saying The Daily's story was "based on inaccurate rumors and speculation" and that the photo displayed by The Daily is "not a real picture of a Microsoft software product."

Both The Daily and Microsoft then took to Twitter in a tit-for-tat, each defending its position. Daily editor Peter Ha tweeted that "we did not fabricate either image. A working version of the app was demoed to us by someone at Microsoft."

Microsoft then tweeted: "Great respect for The Daily but regrettably someone is giving them bad info, and that'll be clear in the 'coming weeks.'"

A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to reveal any other details, telling CNET that all the company has to share right now is the tweet.

Microsoft's initial response didn't nix the idea that it might be creating Office for the iPad but simply said that The Daily got it wrong. A Microsoft spokesperson told Mary Jo Foley of CNET sister site ZDNet that the company is declining to comment as to whether or not it has developed a version of Office for the iPad and/or when such a product may come to market.

The comment about the "coming weeks" indicates that the company does have something up its sleeve. But whether we'll see a full blown version of an iPad Office app or something else of interest in the near term remains a mystery.

One theory advanced by Business Insider is that Microsoft may not have decided what to do just yet.

It may have a version of Office for the iPad in the works, just as the Daily has reported. Though if that's the case, Microsoft wouldn't (or at least shouldn't) put its foot in its mouth by denying the story so vehemently.

Or the company may be creating a final version that doesn't look anything like the one reportedly demoed for The Daily.

In the meantime, iPad users don't necessarily need Microsoft to run Office on their tablets. A couple of Office apps already exist.

Alternative Office apps for the iPad
CloudOn, for example, will let you let you create, edit, and view Microsoft documents via online versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Your documents are stored in the cloud through your DropBox account, so you can work with them whenever you're online.

CloudOn doesn't offer the full array of features and commands found in the Microsoft Office desktop suite. But it includes almost all the ones you'd need on a regular basis. The interface even provides the standard Ctrl, Alt, and Shift keys along with all the function keys, so you can use all of the Windows and Office keyboard shortcuts and hotkeys.

OnLive Desktop goes a few steps further by offering a full version of Windows stored in the cloud. You can access several of the common Windows accessories, including Notepad, Wordpad, Calculator, and Paint. But the highlight of the app is the Office 2010 suite with versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. You'll find all the familiar ribbon menus with the complete array of commands.

Instead of using the iPad's keyboard, OnLive Desktop displays its own keyboard with the Ctrl, Alt, and Del keys among others. You can resize and reposition the keyboard. You can also input text by drawing the characters with your finger, at which point the app uses character recognition to interpret your scribbles.

Until Microsoft conjures up its own iPad version of Office, assuming it ever does, both CloudOn and OnLive Desktop are handy and useful alternatives.