Office for iPhone looks pretty smart, but…

… at the cost of a $99 annual subscription to Office365, that makes it amongst the most expensive mobile office productivity applications around.

I’m pleased that Microsoft has actually made the leap into iOS. I’m on record as saying their reluctance to engage on the iOS platform has been a costly, costly mistake. Millions of people would have automatically bought £5.99 or even £9.99 versions of Office — and they’d have been delighted to have received cut-down versions, as long as they could have opened and edited documents.

By all accounts the version that Microsoft has recently released (US only at the moment) is exceptionally well specified. There’s even capability for SmartArt — check out this hands-on review over at Mashable.

Microsoft could have saved the bigger, better, more involved features for their 365 subscribers.

Right now I’m sat on a train filled with executives. There are 22 seats in the carriage. Two executives are using laptops. The other 20 — I kid yet not — are using iPads.

What a massive, massive waste of opportunity.

You and I know that EVERY executive in the carriage uses Microsoft Office. They just do. It’s a rule. It’ll be very, very rare to find someone who works for a big company and who’s allowed (or able) to use something else. Even if you can bring your own, if you have to wrangle spreadsheets or stupidly complicated Powerpoint decks, Office is the only solution. Even if you’re running a Mac.

Microsoft’s strategy appears to be to try and convince these 20 people — me included — to buy one of their Surface tablets. Or an ultra light laptop.

That looks to me like a big ask.

By all means be present in the market. I think you need to be present, Microsoft. The Surface is a good attempt. But goodness me don’t ignore the way the water is flowing.

I was hoping for a rather funky subscription offering to help get Surfaces into the hands of willing executives.

I reckon 5 out of the 20 would have considered buying a Surface if it was ‘free’. That is, if the cost was hidden into a personal email subscription to Office365. Buy a £15/month account and you get a free Surface.

Office is a highly persuasive toolset, especially amongst the over 30s who, I think it’s fair to say, were raised on the concept of spreadsheets, Powerpoint decks and word documents. It’s built into the DNA of most over 30s white collar workers. Don’t forget Outlook. Folk love it.

Well. Let’s rephrase that. Folk are used to it. You can upgrade it all you like but as long as it looks more or less the same, you’ll just have the occasional grumble from users. Ask anyone that’s introduced Google Apps to any large company. It’s a flipping nightmare because of Office. People are welded to the Office user interface set.

So make it super easy for them to retain that on their mobile devices of choice and I think you could be a (small?) winner.

I suppose that anyone currently evaluating the possibility of migrating their enterprise users to Google Apps or Office365 might now have a slightly more compelling reason to select Microsoft.

Just how would Office being available on your iPad for a tenner (or similar) prevent Microsoft from selling more Surfaces?

It won’t. It shouldn’t. The Surface should be able to stand on it’s own in the marketplace.

I can understand the strategy though. I’m sure it makes good sense when you’re sitting in Redmond.

What would you do if you were running Microsoft?

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