Microsoft’s $2.5bn question: what if it doesn’t release Office for the iPad?

Software firm makes huge profits from Office suite – but is losing chance to capture younger companies which have sprung up in mobile-first world

Growing numbers of people and businesses are choosing to buy tablets such as the iPad – which poses a problem for Microsoft Office. Photograph: Anthony Upton/REX

It may be one of Microsoft’s biggest squandered opportunities.

Tired of waiting for Office to be optimised for their mobile gadgets, a growing contingent of younger companies is turning to cheaper, simpler and touch-friendly apps that can perform word processing and other tasks in the “cloud” – on internet-based systems.

Take Artivest Holdings, a New York-based financial services startup that sells alternative investment products. The New York-based company uses an app called Quip, which combines word processing and messaging, to handle all but the most sensitive legal and financial files.

“There are no more Microsoft Word documents being circulated. If someone emails me a Word document, I’ll tell them to put it in Quip,” said Artivest’s chief investment officer David Levine.

“If I’m walking to and from home, or going to an appointment, I can review or edit on my iPad. Not being tied to my desk, that’s a big pro,” he said.

The speed with which apps like Quip have been adopted is forcing Microsoft to intensify its efforts to bring the powerful but ageing Office software suite to tablets and smartphones, according to people close to the company.

Microsoft already has a full iPhone and iPad version of Office ready for release, the sources said. The only question is when chief executive Satya Nadella, who took over in February, will pull the trigger.

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