Office on iPad: What's the hangup?

With all signs reporting to an imminent release of Microsoft Office for the iPad, there's one crucial sticking point that may gum up the works

Talk of a Microsoft Office edition for the iPad has been circulating for a year. In February, Rupert Murdoch's published a supposedly leaked video of the beast running on an iPad, to which Microsoft quickly responded with a non-denial: "The Daily story is based on inaccurate rumors and speculation. The screenshot accompanying The Daily's story is not a real picture of a Microsoft software product."

Yesterday a screenshot of a French-language Microsoft support website appeared on a Mac4Ever forum. The screenshot clearly states that the instructions on the Microsoft support site apply to "Excel pour iPad" (Excel for iPad). Yet the Microsoft site as it currently appears says, "Excel 2013, PowerPoint dans Excel 2013" (PowerPoint in Excel 2013).

Lots of Office cats are being let out of bags by the 'Softies. There's no question that Microsoft will be releasing Office for the iPad. It's only a question of which version -- and when.

A report earlier today on The Next Web has me wondering if there's yet another unexpected hangup keeping Office for iPad waiting in the wings. Quoting unidentified "sources close to Microsoft," TNW says Apple isn't allowing Microsoft to update its SkyDrive app in the App Store because Microsoft isn't willing to give up 30 percent of all of the revenue generated by the app, forever.

The latest edition of SkyDrive for iOS, which isn't yet available in the App Store, apparently allows SkyDrive users to buy more storage space from inside the app. Apple is insistent on a permanent 30 percent slice of the revenue, according to these unnamed sources, but "Microsoft does not appear keen to pay Apple the 30 percent cut, as it lasts in perpetuity, regardless of whether a user continues to use an iOS device or not, as the billing is through their Apple account. ... If a user signed up for a few additional gigabytes on their iOS device, and then moved to Android or Windows Phone or no phone at all, for the length of their account, Apple would collect 30 percent of their fee for storage."

Apple holds the purse strings. Once a user buys additional storage through an iOS app, Apple does the billing -- and doesn't send any of the billing information to the company that sells the product.

Nobody knows what Office for iPad looks like, but I can't help but wonder if there's a similar reason for its delay. Perhaps an in-app upgrade option? Or, like SkyDrive, an option to pay for increased cloud storage?

TNW goes on to say -- again quoting unnamed sources close to Microsoft -- that "Microsoft has persisted in trying to work out a compromise with Apple, but has thus far failed to come to an agreement. The company offered to remove all subscription options from its application, leaving it a non-revenue-generating experience on iOS. This offer was rebuffed."

If Apple's playing hardball -- again, remember that this story is theoretically coming from the Microsoft side -- perhaps Office is getting squeezed, too.

That would certainly go a long way in explaining why Office for iPad appears to be a done deal, but it's still waiting at the chapel.

This story, "Office on iPad: What's the hangup?," 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.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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