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Just how damaging is Microsoft’s Office for iPad non-strategy?

Right now I’m sitting on a train carriage surrounded by people using laptops. I’m the only one using an iPad (and a physical keyboard). The chap sat across from me looks to be in his sixties. He’s well dressed and looks to be a city grandee type. Arrayed before him is:

– An iPad (WiFi+3G, 3rd generation at least)
– An iPhone 5
– A MacBook Air

The only reason he’s wandering around with a laptop is because of Microsoft Word. Nothing else.

I know, because I asked him. I asked why he had the iPad open on it’s stand along with the laptop.

“Word,” he replied. “The office still runs on Word.”

This is certainly the case for a lot of businesses I know. Excel, too, is a critical dependency for a lot of people (who haven’t quite looked up since 1985 to find that there’s a better world out there.)

It was unspoken but what the chap meant was that nothing quite seems to edit Word documents properly on an iPad. Nothing can quite guarantee that the stupid template that your company uses works on the array of third party Word/Office editors out there.

Until such time as you can accurately review and edit a Word document on your iPad or Galaxy Tab, a laptop is going to be necessary kit for a lot of people.

Or you could buy a Surface.

I did suggest this to see what the chap thought of it.

He hadn’t heard of it.

Obviously.

Because Microsoft priced it to fail (not deliberately; they had their reasons, all of them totally wrong).

Which brings me to the question of Microsoft Office on iPad. A few people I’m loosely connected with reckon they’ve “seen it”. Numerous posts from the Silicon Valley elite reckon there are all sorts of test versions around. I’ve no doubt.

It’s clear to me — and you, right? — that if Microsoft released Office for iPad, almost everyone with half an interest in commerce would buy it. At a one-off £9.99, I’m sure high tens of millions would buy it without a thought. Of course, you could bundle it into some sort of subscription programme — £4.99 a month or thereabouts. That would have some impact but anyone who owns a suit and an iPad would probably give considerable thought to buying it. It’s almost as if you’d be unprepared for work life if you didn’t have Office on your iPad. Just in case. The implications for Microsoft’s SkyDrive could be profound if Office defaulted to using that as the primary data store… if Apple would allow it. You could hook it into an Office365 subscription requirement. There are huge possibilities. You could do multiple subscription offers — Word for £2.99 a month, Word & Excel for £3.99 and the whole “suite” for £6.99 or whatever.

I can understand the invalid concerns from Microsoft. Office is a huge, huge cash cow. Currently. It’s going the way of the dodo though. This is written. 95% of my interaction with word processing is now focused around Google. Just because it works, it’s convenient and the collaboration is instant and easy.

Last year I used to sit down in front of Word to write big strategy documents. I used to obsess about the write styling and the right headers and the wonderful contents page functionality. Until I recognised and accepted that, actually, the content was far more important than messing around with buttons. Routinely I’ll write everything in Google (or, actually, one of the dedicated iPad writing apps) and then get it “collaborated” with colleagues via Drive. Then if necessary, I’ll stick the resulting approved content into Word for 10 minutes worth of formatting.

It used to be that the senior executives I work with couldn’t understand or parse any documents if they weren’t delivered in the house style Word template. Indeed many felt that things “weren’t official” unless the document was presented in the ancient template format.

Increasingly I’m finding that nobody cares.

IT still care. The people dicking about with all the Microsoft licensing issues still care. Many users still live in Office.

But I feel we’re collectively moving away from a dependence on it — and that is only compounded by failing to release an iPad version.

What’s your view? Do you still live in Office most days?

3 COMMENTS

  1. Right on, Ewan. We both discussed the pricing of the Surface back a while ago when it was announced. If lil’ ol folks like Ewan and Giff saw this, why didn’t Microsoft? Seriously? If we called it along with scores of others, did they do any market research at all? And we WANTED Microsoft to be successful with it. But what was with the pricing?

  2. Would love to hear your tips Ewan on the best apps for editing Word, PowerPoint (even more important) and Excel on the iPad. This would be a huge help, particularly the PPT, as I could work far more efficiently on those small moments of snack time, like on the bus/tube on my presentations, rather than waiting to boot up my Mac.

  3. i would like to see something the would work across all platforms with ease. And versions of google or office just don’t have the features that i do use regularly there. I tried to use pages and the other apps for the ipad, but since i use windows at home and at the office, it’s not a very seemless process to access those docs on the windows platform.

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