Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is likely to unveil an iPad version of the company's Office software suite on March 27, according to sources, and use his first big press appearance to launch the company's most profitable product in a version compatible with Apple's popular tablet.
Nadella, who replaced longtime CEO Steve Ballmer earlier this year, will address the media and industry executives in San Francisco mid next week.
Investors for years have urged Microsoft to adapt Office for mobile devices from Apple and Google, rather than shackling it to Windows as PC sales decline. But the software giant has been reluctant to undermine sales of Windows-based tablets.
Microsoft gives up some US$2.5 billion a year in revenue by keeping Office off the iPad, which has now sold almost 200 million units, analysts estimate.
Microsoft said in an invitation to reporters that Nadella will discuss "news related to the intersection of cloud and mobile" but declined to comment on the specifics of the CEO's appearance.
Microsoft has had an iPad version of Office primed for several months now, sources said, but the company has dallied on its release due to internal divisions, among other things.
Microsoft released its Office software for iPhone mid last year. At the time it said no versions were planned for iPad or Android.
Although Nadella is expected to discuss his thinking in depth next week, the company has already signaled that it will adopt a more liberal attitude toward putting its software on different platforms.
Microsoft said earlier today it would make OneNote, its note-taking software, available on Apple Mac computers, a move interpreted by observers as a shot against Evernote, the popular note-taking application that has both Mac and Android compatibility.