SAN FRANCISCO — In his first news conference since becoming Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella announced Thursday that the company is now making its popular Office software available on Apple’s iPad, a move critics contend should have happened years ago.

Nadella, who was named to replace CEO Steve Ballmer on Feb. 4, told reporters in San Francisco that subscribers to Microsoft’s Office 365 product will for the first time be able to create and edit Word, PowerPoint and Excel spreadsheet documents on their iPads.

It’s all part of an ongoing push to increase Microsoft’s sales by making its products available to a greater array of devices, including gadgets made by competitors, and by boosting its so-called cloud, or Internet-based, services.

“Office on the iPad and today’s announcement marks one more step in that direction,” Nadella said. He also promised more new product announcements from the Redmond, Wash., giant, adding that “over the next three to four weeks, you’ll get a much better picture of our innovative agenda.”

In a note to their clients, FBR Capital analysts praised Thursday’s news.

“We believe the Office for iPad was a major positive step in the right direction and signals a strategic change at Microsoft, which could be the sign of more things to come around cloud, tablets, mobile and future Windows releases over the next 12 to 18 months,” they said. “The ‘Nadella era’ at Microsoft is off to a good start.”

Analysts at UBS Investment Research also voiced enthusiasm.

“While some Office features may not be a perfect fit on a touch screen, overall access to the Microsoft platform could be powerful, particularly in enterprise and small business,” they told their clients. In an earlier note this week, they had heavily criticized Microsoft for dragging its feet in making Office available for the iPad, adding, “this should have happened three years ago.”

Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the world’s biggest software company and it remains highly profitable. With nearly 100,000 employees, it earned $22 billion last year on sales of $78 billion, and it boasts a stock market value of about $330 billion.

Although its products range from the Xbox video-gaming system and Bing Web search engine to phones and tablets, Microsoft primarily is known for its Windows operating-system software, which is largely tied to the dwindling personal computer market.

To gain traction in mobile devices and keep its sales growing, Microsoft needs to put greater emphasis on Internet services for businesses and embrace alternatives to Windows, many industry experts believe. But it’s had trouble getting a foothold in the mobile market, experts note, because many software developers haven’t wanted to design apps for Windows-based phones.

Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, speaks during a briefing on Microsoft’s Office for iPad in San Francisco, Calif. on Thursday, March 27, 2014. (Gary

Smartphones using Google’s Android operating system are expected to capture about 79 percent of the global market this year, while Windows-based versions are forecast to account for about 4 percent, according to research firm IDC. That presents what the UBS analysts said, is a “chicken and egg problem” for Microsoft.

Software developers generally shun Windows because they want their apps to appear on the most widely used operating systems. But Windows, they added, “can’t get market share without the hottest, latest apps.”

Google’s Web browser Chrome has become a popular alternative to Microsoft’s browser, Internet Explorer. Google also is taking aim at Windows by developing Chrome as a computer operating system. Moreover, Microsoft’s Surface tablets have generated lukewarm response from consumers and critics have dismissed its pending $7.2 billion purchase of Finnish phone maker Nokia as unlikely to greatly improve its smartphone market share.

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