Microsoft Office for the iPad is almost confirmed? And what it means for Microsoft and Apple.
A few months ago, rumors were circulating that Microsoft was planning on bringing Microsoft Office suite to the iPad in some shape or form. Many dismissed these rumors due to the fact Microsoft is launching Windows 8 for tablets in 2012. It seemed a bit odd that Microsoft would give its competition software that was one of the main excuses for purchasing a Windows 8 tablet in the first place. However, Microsoft is a software company first and foremost and the Windows 8 tablet hardware will be manufactured by other vendors anyway.
That being said, recent rumors suggest that Microsoft is really bringing Office suite to the iPad and it may be introduced during the new iPad launch window.
The info regarding the Microsoft software suite was originally unveiled last November by the iPad-exclusive digital newspaper, The Daily. The Daily also did a follow-up recently to the earlier rumors and reported that its representatives actually had a hands-on demo with it. The Daily reported that it has elements of the Windows 8 Metro UI included and it will soon be submitted to Apple (with an Android version also planned).
The publication posted a screenshot of the suite running on the iPad with what looks like four different apps running from the main app or suite. Like the desktop variation, expect them to be Word, Power Point, Excel, and OneNote.
OneNote coming to the iPad would be quite significant because it is the reason many enterprise users and students like Windows 7 tablets. The note taking abilities the app offers, including its heavy stylus support, is said to be top notch. However, with the iPad not having a precision-based Wacom screen, it will be interesting how the app will function.
Microsoft, however, responded to The Daily’s most-recent report, calling it “inaccurate”. Responses like this present, at times, more questions and speculation than answers. Many are viewing the response as a way for Microsoft to gauge interest and unveil the suite on its own terms.
What is also surprising about this move, if it turns out to be true, is how and if Apple will approve or encourage Microsoft to bring Office on the iOS App Store. The software suite would, by nature, compete with the likes of Apple’s productivity suite, called Apple iWork.
On the other hand, the move could benefit both Microsoft and Apple tremendously. It’s very clear at this point that Apple and Microsoft both hate Google far more than they hate one another. And both sides seem willing to do whatever it takes to destroy Android. What if Microsoft is planning to do Office for tablets as an exclusive for the iPad (until the Windows 8 tablets come out, of course), while totally shafting Android? That would be a pretty big deal. And I can see why Microsoft would agree to it.
Since the introduction of the original iPhone, Microsoft’s underestimation of iOS had let slip the Office empire. Microsoft’s DNA is software. They are primarily a software company. The very name of the company is a mashup of microcomputer and software. And of all of the software they produce, one is more important than all the rest and a huge revenue source that the very livelihood of the company has come to depend on.
Are you thinking Windows? Wrong.
This is also the main cross-platform software they build. Got it yet? Yep. Microsoft for many years had convinced the world that, in order to get “real work” done, you needed Office.
Then, the iPhone came. There was no Office. People got things done. Then the iPad came. There was no Office. People got things done. Android came. People got things done. All of those things that they, just a couple of years ago, were convinced they needed Office to do. They got them done without it.
Microsoft’s biggest miss was allowing the world to finally see the truth behind the big lie — they were not needed to get real work done. Or anything done, really.
The reason Microsoft didn’t adopt an Office elsewhere (than Windows) approach is that such an approach gets in the way of the company’s current goal of continuing the Windows era. If Microsoft makes a version of Office for other platforms, especially one that’s on par with the Windows offerings, that could lead to a further erosion of its Windows PC business. But this is exactly the kind of thinking that prevents Office from growing beyond the Microsoft safety net. And it ignores the fact that consumers and businesses are moving in ever-greater numbers to alternative computing platforms. This year, for the first time, more people will buy smartphones than PCs.
It’s time for the Big M to wake up, and target other popular computing platforms — not just iPad but also iOS/iPhone and Android for both smartphones and tablets. Microsoft should make sure that Office ran as well as possible on all of these platforms, and not just a single app but as many Office apps as possible. Steve Ballmer should speak openly about how the computing world was changing and that for a large percentage of customers, just having an A-1 product on Windows PCs wasn’t enough.
From Apple’s perspective, let’s look at Office for iPad like the Microsoft Exchange support for Mac, iPhone, and iPad for a moment. Apple would prefer that it didn’t have to build support for it, but the Exchange environment is so huge in business that it’s hard to ignore. I remember people being skeptical (and wrong) about Apple supporting Exchange in iOS, but that wound up being a huge reason for iOS’ success in the enterprise. Having given this more thought, I think highlighting Office for the iPad would still clearly be in Apple’s interest. The iWork suite is an alternative to Office, but not a feature-for-feature replacement. Surely there is some number of people who aren’t buying iPads who would if it did have Office, and that number is, I’d bet, significant.
Having said that, Office for iPad would definitely sell a ton of iPads and create a win-win situation for both parties, but Microsoft would be getting much more out of it than Apple. That’s the bottom line.