Office on iPad: Reports of its Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
The day that iPad users and Microsoft Office suite lovers have been waiting for has finally arrived. Now the fate of dozens of third-party applications like Prezi and SlideShark hang in the balance.
In a break with tradition, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the release of Office iPad on March 27. Under former CEO Steve Ballmer, Microsoft protected its Windows franchise by first launching software on its own operating system, though Ballmer did eventually make the decision to ship Office for the iPad. With this move, Microsoft has moved Windows beyond its own product domain, and expanded further into the tablet market.
Does this mean that Microsoft is no longer prioritizing its own operating system? Not likely, according to Tab Times contributor Don Reisinger. However, Nadella made it clear that he would like to focus on cloud and mobile capabilities for Windows in the future. Until he has time to dive into these objectives, Nadella is approaching iOS with a new outlook.
Before Ballmer stepped down as CEO, he hinted that Microsoft was already considering rolling out Office for Apple products. Word of this rumor broke in the fall of 2013. It’s taken almost six months for the idea to evolve into a reality, and there’s no telling how long Microsoft had been mulling over the concept. Now, the time has finally come to see Office and the iPad in action.
Contrary to much of the news that you hear coming out of Silicon Valley, it’s a bit premature to compose the eulogy for Office. More than 1 billion people around the world use Microsoft Office, most on a daily basis. As of 2011, approximately 100 million licenses 2010 have been sold, and Office generates nearly a third of Microsoft’s product revenue.
The fact of the matter is that today’s generation of enterprise leaders grew up with Office—it’s in their DNA. People crunch their numbers and tell their stories with Microsoft Office, and professionals at large corporations are going to be using Excel, Word, and PowerPoint until the day they retire. I understand them because enterprise leaders are my customers too.
Many people believe that Microsoft is late to the game in terms of providing a native iPad version of one of their core applications, and The New York Times’ Nick Wingfield is one of them. Wingfield also noted the large number of third-party solutions available to iPad users who want a Microsoft Office-like program on their tablet. Some of those solutions are complementary to Office—using plug-ins to bring PowerPoint slides to a tablet device. Others, such as Prezi and Keynote, have their own unique file formats, requiring specific software to create or view the document.
But if the chief pain that a third-party technology is attempting to address is simply to view slides on an iPad, then Office might be a more convenient option. Familiarity with the Office product suite and file extensions, which can be viewed by anyone in a company, offers iPad users some powerful advantages.
Because of this entrenched advantage—who doesn’t know what Office is?—third-party applications selling into the business will have to explain why companies need their service in addition to Office, as well as instead of Office. It’s conceivable that technologies that act simply as a PowerPoint replacement will have a tough time proving their added value now that the 800-pound gorilla just arrived at the party.
Before today, the ability to simply view a document on a tablet device was the ante for business productivity applications. Before Office for iPad, the reality was that many iPad-toting sales reps weren’t using their sleek tablets for much more than making sure their kids were entertained while the family went out to dinner.
Going forward, I expect to see an explosion of tablet usage by business professionals—from sales reps winning new customers to executives making more informed decisions on-the-go, because they now have access to the information that they need in the format they grew up using. Applications that enhance the productivity of Office—not strain to replace it—will be the ones that provide the competitive advantage to the largest companies across industries.
Trending on Xconomy
By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.