Talking tech since 2003

Back in June, Microsoft released an iPhone-optimized version of its productivity suite, Office—but neglected to bother with an iPad version. The move was something of a head-scratcher considering that the iPad device was far more suited to using Office than the comparatively miniscule iPhone. As it turns out, Microsoft is biding its time before releasing Office for the iPad, waiting first for a touch-optimized version to be finished, and for it to come out on Windows devices first.

The news comes by way of a post on the Verge, which reports details from an event featuring a talk from outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. There, he said that an iPad version of Office “will be picked up when there’s a touch first user interface.” Furthermore, Microsoft applications and services head Qi Lu recently spoke with the publication and confirmed that the company’s looking to bring those apps to Windows devices first.

At first glance, one has to wonder why Microsoft has to bother with much development time on a touch-first version of Office at all. I mean, how can it be to just make something touch-compatible? Swap out all the mouse-clicks with finger-jabs, and you’re done…right?

Obviously I’m being facetious here. In fact, this post is being typed on my Windows 8 tablet, using a version of Office 365 with touch-capable controls. Overall, the mixture of touch-based interactivity and using my Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad work well enough, but there are occasional hiccups and screw-ups. Sometimes I’ll double-tap something with my fingers, but it doesn’t work quite right. Other times, I’ll tap an area I want to move my cursor to, and the on-screen keyboard will appear without my wanting it to. Simply put, this version of Office is pretty good, but it’s not touch-first.

It’s a good thing for everyone that Microsoft’s taking the extra time to make sure it gets the touch-interface right. And it’s only fitting that Windows devices should get first dibs. In the meantime, I’m sure Microsoft would be more than happy to direct you to a less-expensive tablet that can run a full version of Office right now while you wait for your iPad to get a touch-optimized version.

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