My colleague, Zack Whittaker reported yesterday on our main editorial blog, Between the Lines, that Microsoft has denied claims by three media sources that an Office for iPad exists and will be rolled out in time for an upcoming Sharepoint conference in November.
Microsoft says an Office app for iPad doesn't exist, and yet the media says it does? Who's right? Well, both, probably.
How can this be? It depends on how you define "App."
You see, I don't actually think Microsoft has wasted valuable development cycles on writing a native Office application for the iPad, particularly since it is about to deal with its own tablet OS rollout in Windows RT.
While Microsoft does have developers that know how to develop applications in XCode (they have a business unit that produces Office for Mac) and that a lot of the Office code for Mac which currently exists could be ported to iOS using the same development framework, it is very unlikely the company will go this route.
The level of effort required to achieve it would be difficult and substantial for a number of reasons, but the primary obstacle is memory.
The bottom line is that Office is a very memory intensive application suite and the iPad just doesn't have enough free RAM to run it well, even if you strip it down to the bare essentials, in which case it really isn't Office at all anymore.
The 3rd-Generation model may have enough to scrape by with 1GB of RAM, but the iPad 2 only has 512MB and the iPad 1 a mere 256MB, and that is before iOS itself chews up a good portion of it after it boots.
You can't effectively work on complex documents such as huge PowerPoints with these type of memory restrictions, never mind the localized storage needed to store the apps and the data files as well. And paging virtual memory on an embedded system is extremely painful to say the least.
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