Microsoft gave users and developers many things to think about at the BUILD conference in California this last week.  One that is getting a lot of traction is the idea that Microsoft will be developing a Metro style, touch friendly version of Microsoft Office that will run on tablets. Metro is the name of the user interface language used for Windows Phone 7, and after BUILD, seems to be the direction that Microsoft Windows UI is heading going forward. A lot of analyses are saying that if Microsoft can follow through on the promises made to developers at BUILD, then they will have an OS ecosystem at least on par with Apple.

In fact, Microsoft better be working on a tablet friendly version of Microsoft Office. Office is probably the second largest source of revenue after Windows itself and played a large part in establishing Microsoft’s global dominance.  Microsoft Office has become the default bundled business productivity suite for concerns from mom and pop stores to FedEx and JP Morgan.

However, as tablets become more popular, Microsoft is going to have to rely on a “Metro Office” if it expects to have a chance at blunting the hold Apple has on the tablet market. Apple has a self contained ecosystem of products and apps and right now is so far out in front it is rumored that Apple is delaying the introduction of the iPad 3, because in essence it’s lapping the competition.  Microsoft seems to be adopting a similar approach through its co opting of Nokia to [produce Windows Phone based handsets and the direction being taken with Windows 8 and Metro.

Microsoft has made a lot of exciting promises with Windows 8 and Metro.  Microsoft also has a bit of reputation for talking about new things that never see retail shelves.  However, the last time Microsoft had the kind of competition it is facing now from Apple and Google for operating system market share Bill Gates was writing code for the company and IBM was selling PCs.  In order to succeed, Microsoft needs its star business tools ready for the tablet generation.