Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella unveiled Office for iPad in his first public announcement, on 27 March.
The vast majority of providers cannot resell Microsoft's Surface tablet. And, of course, only a handful have Apple's market-leading iPad in their inventory. But the arrival of Office for iPad could actually be good for the channel, as the new touch-oriented productivity apps may drag software sales up through the channel.
Yesterday, Microsoft chief exec Satya Nadella (pictured, right) confirmed the worst-kept secret in in the tech industry - that Microsoft was developing a version of Office for the iPad.
This is big news as Microsoft has battled to maintain control over its ecosystem by not enhancing the value of rival's products by making versions of its software for iOS and Android.
Microsoft Office remains the market leader for word processing, presentation and spreadsheets, and generates more than $6bn a year for the company's business division.
While Microsoft has had light versions of its software of iOS for years, it hasn't made fully functional versions. This has left an opening for Apple and its iWorks suite as well as a slew of third-party providers with alternative applications to run on the tens of millions of iPads in circulation.
Analysts say Office for iPad could increase Microsoft revenues by $3bn to $5bn. Most of that new revenue will come from Office 365 sales, which now contributes a sixth of the Office take for Microsoft.
"Microsoft is focused on delivering the cloud for everyone, on every device. It's a unique approach that centres on people - enabling the devices you love, working with the services you love, and in a way that works for IT and developers," Nadella said.
Early reviews say Office 365 for iPad is probably the best deal and has the best chance of driving adoption. This is where things get interesting for Microsoft.
After years of being told to promote and sell the Business Productivity Online Suite and, later, Office 365, partners are only now beginning to get traction with Microsoft's cloud-based productivity suite.
The subscription-based service is particularly appealing to SMBs, as it provides applications for more devices - desktop, tablet, smartphone - than conventional licenses.
The fact Microsoft is now generating more than $1bn in sales reflects the growing popularity of Office 365. The availability of an iPad version will make the suite more appealing to customers that have sat on the sidelines with their conventional licenses or customers that have gone with less-functional Office alternatives.
Office for iPad is more than an opportunity to sell Office 365; this new Apple-friendly Microsoft product could be a catalyst for horizontal and upselling.
Office for iPad opens the opportunity to discuss security, mobile device management, backup and cloud storage, desktop and mobile virtualisation, wireless networking and bandwidth management.
It's also an opportunity to talk managed services, such as administering Office 365 and support for all of the above technologies.
Analysts and Microsoft pundits have criticised the release of Office for iPad, a product that's been in development for at least three years, saying that the lack of a tablet-friendly version for Windows 8 or Microsoft's homegrown Surface will hurt other product sales.
Perhaps, but the reality is the iPad is still the best selling tablet device on the market. And what Microsoft is probably betting on is that one product's availability doesn't make for the whole Microsoft experience.
Would it be nice if Microsoft and Apple opened their distribution channels and allowed providers to sell Surface and iPad indirectly? Absolutely. However, there's much that can be sold in support of and around these devices. Office for iPad is an opportunity for the channel to capitalize on a new wave of mobile adoption.
For more US-focused channel news, see www.channelnomics.com
Contingency plans follow Carillion's demise earlier this year
Oliver Tuszik says partners can boost subscription sales by taking a customer experience-led approach
Firm says enterprise business has performed 'weaker than originally expected'
Top executives from nine VARs, including Computacenter, Bell Integration, XMA, ANS and Epaton, weigh in on which server, storage and networking technologies will be red hot next year