Microsoft unveils Office for iPad with sophisticated touch controls

When can arch-rivals be friends? When there’s money to be made.

Microsoft on Thursday unveiled a new version of the Office suite designed specifically for the Apple iPad. The popular suite of programs currently boasts 1 billion users, the company said. And now iPad users can join them and run Word, Excel and PowerPoint, with an interface meant not for a mouse but a finger press.

“It’s a nice example of the fit and finish and care we’ve taken to make this a great Office experience,” said Julia White, general manager for Office at Microsoft.

The software -- available today from the Apple Store -- includes sophisticated touch controls and collaboration tools, she said. There are also some custom tweaks specific to the iPad, such as a numeric keyboard designed to make it easier to do equations in Excel. And a long press in PowerPoint brings up a laser pointer, a feature meant to make presentations a little smoother.

The app will be available at 11 a.m. PST, she said. It will be free for anyone to use for viewing documents and making presentations with them. But to actually edit a document will require a subscription to the Office 365 subscription service, at $6.99 per month or $69.99 a year, across all devices.

The news came during a presentation on new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s vision for cloud computing for the company.

The event was held just under two months into Nadella’s tenure.

“It’s day 52 for me … who’s counting?” he joked.

Nadella touted “ubiquitous computing” -- access to the same information on a variety of devices of all shapes and sizes, not just tablets, laptops and desktops. In the very near future, he said, computing will be everywhere.

“Pretty much everything we do is going to be digitized -- every interaction we as humans have with other humans, the interactions with machines and the interactions between machines,” Nadella said.