Microsoft’s belated effort at bringing its Office suite to the iPad took another major step as the latest software update added the ability to print wirelessly via AirPrint compatible and other wi-fi enabled printers. The free update for existing Office iPad users moved the Microsoft suite one step closer to becoming a practical business world platform, long after other iPad productivity suites including Apple’s own iWork and others hit the iPad market and delivered full functionality. Microsoft had long wavered over whether to deliver MS Office to the iPad, both because it was attempting to keep the personal computer dominant over the tablet, and because it was hoping that if any tablet platform took off, it would be its own in-house Surface. But with both those ships having sailed, Microsoft is now attempting to play catchup when it comes to providing iPad software.
Microsoft Office still dominates when it comes to computers, with its Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps popular on both the Windows and Mac platforms. But the smartphone and tablet markets took off over the past several years with Microsoft unsure of how to hedge its bets, ultimately releasing a compromised Windows 8 which attempted to serve as both a desktop and touchscreen operating system and ended up pleasing no one involved. With Windows 8 desktop sales falling and Surface sales having never taken off, Microsoft’s addition of printing to Office for iPad is just the latest attempt to convince iPad users that they suddenly need Microsoft Office, after they’ve navigated the first four years of the iPad era without it.
That argument may or may not win over the majority of iPad users, but the addition of printing functionality does give Microsoft a stronger leg to stand on when attempting to make its argument that Office should be just as relevant in the mobile era as it has been in the personal computer era.