Office for iPad cursor support roadmap revealed

Microsoft is hard at work getting Office for iPad up to speed with Apple's latest iPadOS release, with plans to add cursor support for trackpad and mouse in the apps. Apple introduced the cursor to its iPad and iPad Pro line-up in iPadOS 13.4, alongside the new Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro that for the first time includes a trackpad.

It's a big change for the tablet, which Apple has long maintained didn't need a desktop-style mouse pointer. The reality, though, is that as the iPad Pro has progressively overlapped with what would traditionally be considered a laptop's role, so too the demands for more familiar controls have increased.

Users don't actually need the Magic Keyboard in order to get the cursor functionality. In fact it will work with third-party Bluetooth peripherals too, among others. However apps themselves need to be updated to take full advantage of the cursor.

That's just what Microsoft is doing with its Office for iPad suite. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and the company's other apps are all being tweaked to support the new iPadOS 13.4 feature. TechCrunch reported this week that it was "expected to ship in Office for iPad this fall," while The Verge suggests it could actually arrive a lot sooner than that.

For Microsoft, a big iPad opportunity

Initially, Microsoft's embrace of iOS software seemed strange. After all, Windows has long been the company's big money-maker, and so developing software for rival platforms didn't quite fit that picture. The reality, though, is that Microsoft's fortunes have only expanded with their venturing onto iPad.

Part of that is likely to be brand recognition. Microsoft Office is no stranger to actual offices and schools, and so the ability to have versions of those same apps on an iPad or iPad Pro is appealing. At the same time, Microsoft has been working on its cloud services too, so that synchronization between different devices – such as an iPad Pro while on the move, and a desktop Windows 10 PC when in the office – is more streamlined.

As such, Microsoft has generally been eager to jump on new features as Apple adds them to its OSes. That includes the Split View feature on iPad released last year, for example, which allows for multiple apps to display simultaneously. More recently, it began publicly testing multi-window support.