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Microsoft confirms Office for the iPad

Photo courtesy Microsoft

(MoneyWatch) The mobile revolution -- spurred by devices like the iPhone and iPad -- is seven years old now, but Microsoft has maintained a fairly tight grip on its office productivity cash cow Office for most of this time, only begrudgingly releasing limited versions that work on anything but full-powered PCs.

To be fair, Microsoft has introduced Office for the iPhone and has both iPhone and iPad versions of OneNote. But you can't really write much of a report or spreadsheet on your phone; what people really want is a version of Office optimized for the iPad. And Steve Ballmer has finally acknowledged that one is coming.

That said, it won't be anytime soon. According to The Verge, Ballmer spoke at a Garter analyst event last week, where he said: "iPad will be picked up... when there's a touch-first user interface."

So not only do iPad users have to wait for the touch-first interface, they'll need to wait out the initial release on Windows 8 as well -- Microsoft will almost certainly want to make the suite available for its own touch interface operating system first. The company has already shown off a touch-enabled version of PowerPoint at this summer's BUILD conference, but it was a very early version of the program -- indicating there's a long road ahead before we see touch-friendly modern app versions of Office for any operating system.

You can already use a touch-friendly version of Office on the iPhone, but it's not very encouraging; to use it, you need to purchase the full $100 Office 365 subscription, and the included Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps are clumsy, counter-intuitive, and don't follow traditional iOS conventions. Here's to hoping that Microsoft gets the next version right.

Photo courtesy Microsoft