Is Microsoft set to launch 'pathetically bad' Office for iPad?

Rumors say Microsoft will release an Office for iPad similar to current Office Mobile on iPhone. Considering its limitations, let's hope that's not true

Both Tom Warren at the Verge and Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet have pegged March 27 as the day Microsoft releases its long-awaited version of Office for the iPad. Satya Nadella has scheduled a press conference in San Francisco on that date, promising an update on Microsoft's "mobile first, cloud first" strategy, and everybody and their brother in the tech press is now claiming Nadella will use the event as an opportunity to unveil Office for iPad.

If true, the event will be mostly notable for the fact that it precedes any announcements about a Metro Office. Over its long history, Microsoft has released several products for Apple's platforms before releasing them for Windows, but this switcheroo would mark a seismic change in the way Microsoft has long used Office to sell Windows.

I, for one, think that's great news -- it means Microsoft is waking up to the realities of the post-PC marketplace. But one nagging detail has me worried. Both Warren and Foley (and the hundreds of copy-and-paste folks who have echoed their words) say that "the iPad variant of Office will be similar to the iPhone version."

When I first read the pronouncement, I had to go back and read it again. Surely they must have that part wrong.

Porting Office for iPhone (more correctly known as Office Mobile for iPhone) over to the iPad should be a relatively quick and easy job; most iPhone apps move to iPad without much hassle. But surely Microsoft wouldn't release another version of Office similar to the one that InfoWorld's Galen Gruman calls "pathetically bad," would it?

Office for iPhone right now doesn't come close to any of the major office productivity apps on iPhone or iPad, and it makes a mockery of Office in general. Here are the high points, from Gruman:

  • Word: No ability to apply styles, no search and replace, no track changes, no numbered or bulleted lists, no graphics
  • Excel: No cell allignment or merge, no graphics
  • PowerPoint: No edit in place, no layouts or graphics, no new slideshows (only editing)

There's no printing in any of the applications, either. The worst part is that many simple, straightforward, legit Office documents can't be edited in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. Office for iPhone simply says it can't edit them -- and gives zero explanation for why.

Perhaps Microsoft will announce a new version of Office Mobile, with many of those gaps plugged, and that new version of Office Mobile will include iPad support?

Please tell me that's the case. Many customers wouldn't mind paying for Office 365 to get Office for iPad. But at least give them something better than the free Apple iWork or Google Quickoffice.

This story, "Is Microsoft set to launch 'pathetically bad' Office for iPad?," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.