Microsoft has finally developed a version of Office for the iPad, a move many feel comes too late.
The company made the announcement at a press conference in San Francisco that was webcast Thursday and hosted by Satya Nadella, Microsoft's newly appointed CEO.
A Microsoft official demonstrated Excel, Word and PowerPoint working natively on an iPad and said the suite would be available later Thursday at the Apple App Store.
"It's a beautiful set of applications," Nadella said.
The decision brings together two of the world's most massively popular personal computing products: the ubiquitous and dominant Office productivity suite and the iPad, which Apple first released in 2010, igniting a tablet revolution.
Microsoft had been taking gradual, deliberate steps in this direction. It released a version of Office for the iPhone last year, but that product hasn't caught on, primarily because many Office functions don't lend themselves to smartphone screen sizes.
Microsoft has also progressively tweaked Office Online -- a browser-based version of the suite with limited functionality formerly called Office Web Apps -- to work better with Safari on the iPad.
Moreover, Microsoft has released individual apps for iOS in recent years, including SkyDrive and OneNote.
However, the company had resisted releasing a full-featured, native version of the suite with its core Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps. This opened the door for competitors to offer a wide range of alternatives.
As it did with its version for iPhone, Microsoft will sell Office to iPad users via a subscription to Office 365, the suite edition that people pay for annually.
In a research note published last week, Morgan Stanley analysts predicted that if Microsoft offered Office 365 for iPad users would increase Microsoft annual billings by about $1.2 billion.
However, Microsoft will also make the Office for iPad applications available for free download and use with a limited set of their capabilities.
Microsoft also announced that it is making Office Mobile for iPhones and Android smartphones free, so it will no longer be necessary for people to have an Office 365 subscription.
Existing Office 365 subscribers can add their iPads as one of their chosen devices for their subscription. They'll be able to create and edit Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents. It's not clear whether the iPad applications replicate all the features found in the main desktop versions of the applications.
The free iPad versions of the apps allow users to read and present documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Office for iPad is available in 29 languages.
Touch-first editions of Office for Windows 8 and for other operating systems -- presumably Android -- will be released later.
"When it comes to Office 365, the vision is pretty straightforward: to make sure that the 1 billion Office users -- and growing -- can have access to the high-fidelity Office experience on every device they love to use," Nadella said. "Today's announcement of Office on the iPad marks one more step in that direction."