Microsoft unveils new Office for iPad features on Apple's stage

Hell hasn't frozen over – but a Microsoft exec really demoed new Office features

In a surprise move, Microsoft sent a pair of representatives to Apple's big press event in San Francisco Wednesday morning to demonstrate new features in Office for iOS that are tailored for the new iPad Pro.

Kirk Koenigsbauer, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Office 365 client applications, came on stage at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium to show new changes to the company's suite of apps for Apple's tablet, including the ability to draw freehand shapes on a Word or PowerPoint document, and then get them translated into shapes like arrows or circles.

It's designed to take advantage of Apple's new Pencil stylus for the iPad Pro, a $99 accessory the company announced just ahead of Koenigsbauer's appearance on stage. Users can also use touch to annotate documents with a stylus or finger, and have those annotations sync across Office apps on iOS and other platforms.

In addition, the apps can take advantage of the new iPad multitasking features in iOS 9 to let users copy and paste content across different Office apps running side by side. That means users can take a chart from an Excel spreadsheet that they're looking at on the right-hand side of an iPad Pro or iPad Air 2's screen, and copy it to a Word document that's taking up the left half of the device's screen real estate.

Having Office on the iPad Pro should help Apple attract the interest of enterprise users who might consider purchasing its new tablet for use in the workplace. Apple is competing against Microsoft in that arena, partnering with IBM and Cisco to turn iPads into compelling business devices. Meanwhile, Dell, HP and others recently agreed to sell Surface Pro tablets as part of their enterprise sales efforts.

Interestingly, Apple didn't show off its iWork productivity suite, which the company bundles with iOS devices. iWork's Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps compete directly with Word, Excel and PowerPoint, though Apple doesn't spend nearly as much time discussing and promoting them as Microsoft does with its Office suite.

Koenigsbauer's appearance is another sign of Microsoft's new strategy under CEO Satya Nadella. The company has put significant effort into building apps for platforms it doesn't control, including versions of Office for iOS and Android. Cross-platform use even extends to Microsoft's executives: Koenigsbauer was conspicuously wearing an Apple Watch on stage, rather than one of Microsoft's Bands.

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Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
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