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Apple's Free iWork Pressures Microsoft Office

Apple challenges Microsoft to release Office for the iPad by offering its iWork suite for free to new customers. How will Microsoft respond?

4. iWork for iOS could gnaw into Microsoft Office's PC business.

In an email, Gartner analyst Michael Silver said iWork "is mostly a consumer thing," but that "consumer choices bleed into the enterprise."

The implications stretch beyond tablets. Apple also produces iWork apps for OS X as well, and the company said at its Worldwide Developer Conference that new versions of both the mobile and desktops apps will be released later this year. If iWork becomes popular on iOS, it certainly can't hurt the popularity of iWork on MacBooks and iMacs.

But the bigger factor could be iWork for iCloud, which is currently in a free public beta. Apple hasn't confirmed whether the apps will remain free once iWork for iCloud officially launches, but the Web apps are nonetheless interesting because they're platform-agnostic. If a user begins working on a project on her iPad, she will be able to continue it seamlessly on a Windows PC, and vice versa. iWork will never replace Office in the enterprise, but that doesn't mean Office will continue to enjoy monopoly-level market share forever, especially among users who don't require the software's differentiating features.

5. iWork doesn't face a sure path to success.

Even if it's successful among iPad users, iWork won't necessarily rocket to tablet dominance. Johnson noted that factors such as iWork's mediocre compatibility with Office could be problematic; he said enterprises are "very clear" that such compatibility is essential.

It's also noteworthy that iWork apps have never been prohibitively expensive at $9.99 apiece. The apps' usage will certainly go up now that they're free, and with new versions coming, Apple might have compelling new features in store. But if iWork were going to silence demand for Office on the iPad, shouldn't it have already started to happen?

iWork additionally faces capable mobile competitors, such as QuickOffice Pro and OpenOffice, and Google is certainly advancing its own mobile productivity agenda with not only Android, but also Chromebooks. Windows tablets could also still rebound with faster, sleeker Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 models, many of which will come bundled with Microsoft Office, and some of which will cost less than iPads. And then there are emerging contenders such as Box, which just expanded its services to include cloud-based documentation creation. Free iWork downloads are an interesting addition to the fray, but with so many upstarts fighting to gain traction, don't be surprised if Office isn't dethroned any time soon.

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User Rank: Apprentice
9/18/2013 | 6:49:15 PM
re: Apple's Free iWork Pressures Microsoft Office
I'm old enough that I can remember waiting back in 1984 to get my hands on my first Mac. One of the things that made the Mac so cool was that MacWrite was built in.
Now, I'm a somewhat fallen-away member of the Mac religion. It wasn't so much that I lost my faith, it was that I didn't have much choice; I was working in settings where all the technology was Windows and Office, and even for a device for my home I kind of needed something that I could do work from work on.
One of the things MS did right in that era was publish a version of Office for the Mac, which of course "borrowed" many of the concepts of the Mac and MacWrite. And so eventually MacWrite went away. Yes, of course it's dumb that MS wouldn't do something similar now for the iPad; people like me want Office, and a watered-down version is fine, if the documents can be uploaded back to the mothership desktop PC. But if iWork can talk to Office that's almost as good, so MS is playing with fire here.
What's interesting here also is how Apple has come full circle, by bundling iWork with the device in the same way they did with MacWrite almost 30 years ago. The buzz word in technology these days is "disruptive," and these guys are doing things that are intentionally disruptive to each other, although of course in a way that benefits the consumer--although we may need to wait for some shake-out before we achieve that full benefit.
Michael Endler
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/18/2013 | 5:41:19 PM
re: Apple's Free iWork Pressures Microsoft Office
In response to some stories several months back, some commentators defended Microsoft's decision to withhold Office from iPads. The first three responses to this story are all pretty critical of the strategy, though. Does anyone think Microsoft is making the right moves with its Office mobile strategy?
C. Moya
C. Moya,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/18/2013 | 5:32:52 PM
re: Apple's Free iWork Pressures Microsoft Office
Mindshare. Microsoft understood the importance of this when Bill Gates was at the helm. Having Office on the iPad keeps "Microsoft" and their tools at the tip of everybody's mind. Microsoft used to understand this (MS had their hands in wildly incompatible computers back in the day, Apple, IBM, Commodore, all of them), but the growing hegemony of Windows spoiled them.
Cara Latham
Cara Latham,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/18/2013 | 4:30:45 PM
re: Apple's Free iWork Pressures Microsoft Office
As an Apple user, this is probably the only thing I thought was missing from the iPad experience. I don't see why Microsoft is being so stingy. One of the missing features in any tablet is its ability to be productive on the go, and by solving the lack of Microsoft Office availability on the iPad, the already best-selling (and best tablet out there) will continue to beat the competition. Bad move by Microsoft.
Shane M. O'Neill
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
9/18/2013 | 3:14:19 PM
re: Apple's Free iWork Pressures Microsoft Office
Good analysis here that covers all scenarios. I don't see how MS can keep Office on Windows devices only much longer. Free iWork on iOS only tightens the screws and is destined to expand iWork usage. If Windows 8.1 devices are a bust, MS will have to set the Office suite free. Too many alternatives out there to keep it in the Windows prison. Maybe it will be the new CEO's first big move to establish himself.
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