As Microsoft continues its Office for iPad marketing campaign, the team that developed the productivity software has taken to Reddit for an AMA, or Ask Me Anything, to answer questions and discuss the development process behind Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for iPad. By measure of upvotes, the most popular question as of the time of this writing asked when Office for iPad would gain the ability to print, something Apple’s iWork suite and many of apps already offer, to which the team replied “in due course” while noting the high demand of the feature.

But the team didn’t stop there; Microsoft’s Office for iPad team also shared photos of their lab (as seen in the above photo), talked about the development process for bringing Office to the iPad, and even addressed the notion that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer held Office back from the iPad…

Something that I found interesting but may be assumed is that Microsoft’s Office for iPad team is also their Office for Mac team, which has been reported to be due for an update later this year. When someone asked if the Office for iPad team could ask the Mac team when the update is coming out, someone from the team replied back saying “actually, we are also the Office for Mac team.”

With that in mind, one clever Reddit user asked if Office for iPad had delayed Office for Mac thus far as well as its transition from using Carbon to Cocoa in development. Microsoft’s reply:

The code for Office for iPad and Office for Mac is shared, as the development platforms for both are very similar. :) The iPad work required us to create an all-new UI and to redesign the interface between UI and the internal logic. That work actually helps us with de-Carbonizing Office for the Mac, instead of delaying or hindering it. We’re able to create new Cocoa UI on the Mac and tie it into the new logic interface now.

When asked if recent headlines portraying Microsoft’s direction should be attributed to now retired CEO Steve Ballmer and the company’s current CEO Satya Nadella, the iPad team attributed the company’s new Office apps to Ballmer’s approval.

The decision to ship Office for iPad was made before Satya became CEO. Steve Ballmer approved the plan to ship Office for iPad.

Another team member quoted Steve Jobs when addressing what exactly took so long.

Since we were designing Office for iPad from a “blank slate” so to speak, we wanted to take the time to deliver the highest possible quality Office experience that is fully optimized for the iPad. A wise man once said, “Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.” That rings true for how we thought about it.

And Microsoft says its apps were approved on the first submission:

We have a very normal team Apple Developer account. And yes, Apple did approve the apps on the first try. We’re very proud of that!

Microsoft’s Office for iPad team took this opportunity to show off their stash of Apple products for making software for OS X and iOS as well.

On writing extensions for Office for iPad…

Sections 2.7 and 2.8 of Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines emphatically state that downloading, installing, or launching any sort of code other than your app’s own code is prohibited. I don’t know if Apps for Office would be allowed in the iOS App Store.

…and the popular question of why pay for Office 365 when iWork is free to new users:

There are multiple benefits of having an Office 365 Home premium $100/yr subscription including getting Office on up to 5 PCs or Macs and 5 tablets, always being up to date, getting OneDrive storage of 20G per household user (up to 5 users) and 60 min of free Skype calling.

Another popular question asked about people actually paying for the Office 365 account and the numbers behind that:

Honestly and seriously, there’re a lot. Can’t tell the concrete numbers though, we saw a big portion of the apps being used and activated by O365 account. Also among all the app store feedbacks you can see there’re bunch of comments and feedbacks on the editing related features too, those people must have the O365 to be able to see those features.

And check out this banner!


Finally, when asked if the team felt like traitors to the rest of Microsoft, a few members had their own responses:

This will date me, but, when I applied for a job at Microsoft, my resumé said that I was interested in working on application software for Windows, Unix and OS/2. Microsoft hired me to work on Word for the Macintosh, and I’ve been a Mac developer ever since.

So, I’m a Mac person because of Microsoft. If that makes me a traitor, it’s all Microsoft’s fault.

This quote from Satya says it all for me: “…we are absolutely committed to making our applications run what most people describe as cross-platform great. There’s no holding back of anything. It is about being able to excel everywhere our customers are. One of the questions is, is this a massive tradeoff for you? There is no tradeoff. It’s reality for us. It’s not a competitive reality. That’s not what motivates us. What motivates us is the realities of our customers.”

So I feel like my work is more aligned than ever with the company’s vision.

Despite the team saying Ballmer okay’d the Office for iPad project, it’s seems that Satya Nadella has a focus on getting Microsoft’s services to as many users on as many platforms as possible despite the platform. Nadella has thus far embraced this approach with a public Twitter handshake of sorts with Tim Cook and pointing to Microsoft’s success on the iPad as Office reached 12 million downloads over the first week.

Also notable is Microsoft’s approach to marketing by letting its developers take to Reddit in the first place. Perhaps Satya Nadella could rub off on Tim Cook a little and Apple could let the iWork and iLife teams out of the office for a Q&A session one of these days.

You can read the full Reddit AMA here.

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8 Responses to “Microsoft’s Office for iPad team talks development process, Ballmer, and more during Reddit AMA”

  1. PMZanetti says:

    Nadella walked in day 1 and said, “The App Store makes money. What hell are we waiting for?”


    • Well Steve Ballmer was said to have started the development.


      • Tim Jr. says:

        It was likely planned to be released after the new CEO took over. The people en-mass would always relate this release to his coming; regardless of who start it..

        Happens in politics all the time with the previous and new president.. one starts something, and one ends up with the ‘benefits’ or ‘blame’ depending on how it ends..

        We rarely remember how things being. ;)


      • Ballmer was also the guy who delayed it for all these years while running ‘Surface has Office!!’ ads. So, no, he doesn’t get credit for his rearranging the deck chairs move trying to save his job.

        All Ballmer did was finally admit his strategy was a failure and that he should stop blocking Office for iPad. Whoopdedoo.


  2. blakthundar says:

    I have downloaded the Office Suite, but don’t have and don’t plan on purchasing Office 365 for $100 a year as that’s an absurd amount to pay yearly for only 2 devices. As an educator I can buy Office for $15 and have no real incentive to spend that kind of money essentially just to have Office on the iPad. I really wish Microsoft would reconsider only allowing full access to O365 subscribers and either offer a one time payment or much cheaper subscription.


    • Axel Grothey says:

      As an educator you might be able to purchase an Office 365 license for 4 years (2 devices) for $79.99. Makes $20 per year – good deal. I am sure you spend more on Starbucks… ;)


  3. Dan McCarthy says:

    I think Nadella walked in and said “Windows is dead, we are an app developer now.” ;)