Microsoft announces Office 365 for iPad, mobility device management suite as Nadella reveals cloud and device vision

New Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella unveiled Office 365 for iPad, a new cloud-based mobility device management platform and revealed his strategy for the company during a major press conference in San Francisco.

In the key announcement of the press conference, Microsoft Office general manager Julia White unveiled the release of Office 365 for the Apple iPad tablet, including Word Excel and PowerPoint.

White announced the suite would be released based on a freemium model, with subscribers able to read and present documents with a free Office 365 subscription.

Meanwhile, paid Office 365 subscribers, including existing Mac and Windows subscribers, would gain the ability to create and edit new content using the iPad apps.

Key features of the release include integration of the ribbon navigation menu, OAuth user authentication and real time collaborative real-time editing of documents saved in OneDrive.

The iPad version of Word includes the ability to edit charts and images, Excel features a custom numeric onscreen keypad for editing formulas and the ability to edit charts, while PowerPoint includes the ability to annotate or use a ‘laser pointer’ on slides, controlled by the iPad’s touchscreen.

White stressed that the iPad version of Office 365 was specifically designed for the iPad, using a combination of iPad and Microsoft design elements.

“Hopefully by now you’ll see this isn’t just the ported Windows app, and this certainly isn’t the iPhone app – these are uniquely built for the iPad”

During the press conference, Microsoft also unveiled its Enterprise Mobility Suite, which consists of the InTune cloud-based mobile device management platform, Azure Active Directory and Azure Access Rights Management.

Interestingly, White demonstrated InTune using a Samsung tablet, while emphasising Microsoft’s support for the Android platform.

A key feature of InTune is that it stores business data and apps separate to an employee’s personal apps and data, giving employees the ability to wipe business information off a device while still retaining personal information on the same device.

The InTune interface allows employees to control which devices have access to work files, as well as directly install apps recommended by their employer’s IT staff.

White says there are additional benefits to employees directly downloading apps through InTune rather than through an app store, including IT staff knowing employees are using the correct version of an app.

“What InTune does is provide a company portal for employees to login to get access to their apps, and get access to the mobile devices they need.”

Meanwhile, Azure Active Directory is single portal that allows enterprise IT to control cloud service credentials for employees across a range of cloud-based services and applications.

White demonstrates how IT staff can easily manage which cloud services employees have access to, while the end-users get a Facebook-style single login experience. 

“Azure Active Directory gives me the equivalent to a Facebook experience. In my personal life, I have my Facebook username and login, and I can use that to access a whole number of consumer services – I just have to remember that one user name and password. Azure Active Directory gives me that same experience in the workplace.”

Both Nadella and White stressed that Microsoft’s cloud offering is a platform, allowing third party development access to Azure cloud and Office 365.

Aside from the new product announcements, Nadella also set out the long-term strategy for the company, which he said would target the intersection of cloud-based services and mobile devices.

Nadella says the company’s “mobile first, cloud first “was focused on a future of “ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence”.

“The cloud that is not connected to devices is just latent potential, because how does the cloud interact with the real world? It’s through devices… It could be a sensor, it could be a mobile device, it could be a tablet, it could be a big screen in a conference room or a living room. And likewise, a device that’s not connected to the cloud cannot complete the scenarios.”

The Microsoft boss predicted the emergence of new form factors, including the rapid digitisation of all interactions between humans and reasoning over data.

Nadella also emphasised the company’s approach to new products considered end-users, company IT staff and third-party developers as the three key stakeholder groups.

“The world in the next five years and the next 10 years is not going to be defined by the form factors we know and love today, but the variety of form factors that will come to be over the coming years.”

It was closed by Nadella noting it was the first of a series of announcements by the company, release of more announcements at the Build Conference next week.

A key focus of the upcoming announcements will be Windows, with Nadella noting “Windows is a massive agenda for us”.

The press conference comes a couple of days after Microsoft released the source code for DOS 2.0 and Word for Windows 1.1a.

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