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Microsoft unveils Office for Apple's iPad

Microsoft's Office suite of applications, encompassing its popular Word, Excel and PowerPoint programs, will become available to iPad users from Apple Inc's app store from Thursday.

The announcement marks a significant break with Microsoft's longstanding Windows strategy now that new Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella has taken the helm. The software giant has previously been unwilling to compromise its signature PC operating system.

At a news conference Thursday, Microsoft executives demonstrated a new "touch-first" version of Office crafted for the iPad, available for download as a free app this morning, although a subscription is needed to let users create or edit documents. Significantly, executives did not demo any software on Windows machines.

Thursday's Microsoft event is Nadella's first major public appearance since his appointment last month.

Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., speaks during an event in San Francisco, on Thursday, March 27, 2014.. Nadella unveiled Office software for Apple Inc.'s iPa.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., speaks during an event in San Francisco, on Thursday, March 27, 2014.. Nadella unveiled Office software for Apple Inc.'s iPa.

While the technology behind the software is not ground-breaking, the strategy is: It puts Office at the heart of the company's push to become a leading services company across a variety of platforms—possibly at the expense of Windows and its own Surface tablet.

That perceived willingness to break with the Windows tradition, which remains co-founder Bill Gates' most enduring legacy, helped spur Microsoft shares to $40-plus levels not seen since the dotcom boom of 2000.

Analysts have said the lack of an Office version for the iPad may have robbed Microsoft billions of dollars in revenue.

Read More Microsoft soars on Office-for-iPad report

"We estimate that if 10 percent of the iPad install base were to subscribe to Office then this could add 15 million subscribers and generate $1.1 billion to $1.5 billion in consumer Office subscription revenue per year," Bernstein Research analyst Mark Moerdler said earlier this month in a research note.

Wall Street is now guardedly optimistic on a company that, while still garnering billions of dollars in annual profit, risks gradual obsolescence in a mobile-powered tech industry.

Microsoft stock was holding steady at just under $40 in midday trade.

Click here for the latest Microsoft quote.

Reuters with CNBC.com

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