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10/9/2013
11:43 AM
Michael Endler
Michael Endler
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Microsoft Office For iPad Faces Many Challenges

Microsoft can still win with an iPad version of Office, but only if the touch interface is exceptional.

Talking about a new interface is different than creating one, of course. Many of Microsoft's attempts to implement touch-first models, such as the Modern UI home screen, have met with mixed-to-negative reviews. The version of Office that comes baked into Windows Phones and that's available via Office 365 subscriptions for iPhones and Android smartphones was likewise greeted with a collective shrug. Given this history, Microsoft could certainly bomb out with a haptic-focused Office.

But none of Microsoft's competitors has really cracked mobile productivity either. iWork, Quickoffice and other replacements for Office on the iPad are filling gaps, but none has rewritten the book. If Microsoft's long development period culminates in a product that's useful both with and without a keyboard, users will be more likely to open their wallets.

In his latest remarks, Ballmer offered few hints. He explicitly confirmed for the first time that an iPad-native version of Office is coming, bringing clarity to a recent a series of hints and partial statements. But the company already has some pieces in place. Cloud hooks are an important aspect of modifying and sharing documents while mobile, and though Apple appears to be making efforts in this vein, Microsoft is further along.

The extent to which Microsoft translates Office's power and deep feature set to a new interaction model, though, will dictate the extent to which the software will succeed, especially among consumers and BYOD workers. If iWork offers 95% of Office's utility for most iPad users, Microsoft will be pressured to release the app for free or for little cost, or to risk remaining a niche tablet player if it insists on coupling the iPad version to Office 365, as it has with the iPhone edition. But if Microsoft delivers a superior interaction model, it can make up for lost time, and then some.

Office for the iPad also means that Windows tablets will have to stand on their own merits, rather than using the world's most ubiquitous PC productivity software as a crutch. That makes the Office UI stakes that much higher. In other words, if Windows tablets continue to trail iOS and Android tablets in popularity, software and services represent Microsoft's alternate path to short-term tablet relevance. That means if Office for the iPad underwhelms because it's not meaningfully better than competitors, Microsoft will be striking out on multiple fronts.

Microsoft's challenges have grown so large mostly because the company's mobile push arrived so late. But much of that can change, as long as touch-first Office apps are worth the wait.

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anon8509725310
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anon8509725310,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/22/2013 | 8:19:16 PM
re: Microsoft Office For iPad Faces Many Challenges
Some comments by one of my colleagues Doug Brashear at NavigationArts: http://blog.navigationarts.com...
midmachine
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midmachine,
User Rank: Strategist
10/22/2013 | 5:16:14 PM
re: Microsoft Office For iPad Faces Many Challenges
"but as soon as an employee wants to peruse or modify those documents at home, they could easily end up in iWork"... Well, in our workplace if that happened they'd have to convert/re-work back into Office format. We will not support I Work.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
10/12/2013 | 3:23:27 PM
re: Microsoft Office For iPad Faces Many Challenges
Crippled was a poor choice of words on my part. I was trying to convey a state where iPad Office lacks features that Surface Office has either because of genuine Windows advantage or at least something Microsoft's marketing perspective fabricates.

For instance, if folks truly want iPad Office, they might want to do more printing. Unless there's an iOS-compatible printing infrastructure, it's going to be easier to achieve that on Windows Office. Likewise, any organization with a heavy investment in SharePoint may find iPad Office not as capable as Windows Office. Embedding things between Office apps may be a no show on iPad Office whereas that will be a given on Windows Office. Finally, Windows Office will offer an AD security context that's likely impossible with iPad Office. Combined with SharePoint challenges, that might the collaboration folks expect from desktop Windows Office a no show on iPad Office.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
10/11/2013 | 2:07:42 PM
re: Microsoft Office For iPad Faces Many Challenges
Tim cook has already stated, and it's been said in articles elsewhere, the iWork is already the most popular suite for mobile, and the most popular Apple being bought by mobile business users, as well as consistently being at the top of Apple's App Store sales charts.

I know more than a de people in business who generat documents with iWork on an iPad.do they generat long documents? No. But as most business documents are short,I bork does just fine there. Keynote has been acknowledged as being the best present ion program around, and it works very well on the iPad.

The question for Microsoft is whether it is already too late for much market penetration. And they are currently saying that it will,arrive after the mid year introduction of the Windows versionGă÷by the end of 2014. That's a good year from now.

Meanwhile, in June, Apple announced that this fall iWork would see a major upgrade. And hen they will have the cloud version out. By the time Microsoft's app arrives, assuming it bill be on time, and with Microsoft, that s a 50/50 chance, Apple may have upgraded again.

And then we have that pricing issue. If tablets continue to generate more business documents, including spreadsheets without Office, then Microsoft may need to price it where it severely undercuts the desktop version, and how will that sit with their desktop users? Apple doesn't care as iWork has always just been there to sell the hardware. They are now taking a page out of Microsoft's book, which is to give away software that is critical to a major competitor. As the OS saying goes, "80% of Office users use 20% of the features, Microsoft might find itself overqualified at a high price.

If they give the software away for little, or for free, their pricing model ends up in tatters. I've always said the Windows is a leading indicator of what happens at Microsoft. As Windows sales continue to decline, Office sales will follow. As full priced office sales decline, and if Microsoft can't make up for it in mobile pricing and sales, their entire empire will begin to shrink.

It could very well be that Microsoft's window of opportunity is almost closed.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
10/10/2013 | 10:01:57 PM
re: Microsoft Office For iPad Faces Many Challenges
It's a good question. But if Microsoft has already lost some of its ability to capitalize on the iPad's popularity, I think a crippled iOS app would get rid of a lot of what's left.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
10/10/2013 | 9:21:21 PM
re: Microsoft Office For iPad Faces Many Challenges
QUESTIONS

Will iPad Office and WinTablet Office look, feel and function the same or will Microsoft offer a crippled iPad version in an attempt to convert folks back to Windows?

Will they allow the iOS Office team to create a genuine native app that equals the WinTablet version or will it be a curmudgeon because of run-time translated Metro<->iOS API calls? (I have always assumed Apple did this with Windows iTunes? The app is bad on both platforms but nothing about it feels like a native Windows app. It feels like it's a Mac app that's been coaxed to run on Windows with a compatibility layer).
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
10/10/2013 | 2:31:16 PM
re: Microsoft Office For iPad Faces Many Challenges
Native Office on iPads is only a nice-to-have for consumers, but could be a game-changer on all iOS and Android tablets in the workplace if the UI is better than free alternatives and it truly makes Office apps tablet-friendly (no small feat). But looking at the big picture, it's a shame that Microsoft has been reduced to trying to be a mobile player through a productivity suite that was designed for desktops. Obviously, the way to the mobile A-list is through a killer OS, app ecosystem, modern hardware and great marketing, all of which Microsoft tried to do but the execution and the timing were off by about 100 miles. Now the company is really in a pickle.
Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/10/2013 | 10:07:59 AM
re: Microsoft Office For iPad Faces Many Challenges
Microsoft's delay of getting an iPad version of Office out to market definitely has hurt. Users have turned to Google Drive and a number of other alternatives since they couldn't get MS Office. Now the question is: will users come back to MS Office and decouple workflows from the alternative solutions? Some will, some won't, I imagine.
normcf
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normcf,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/10/2013 | 1:18:00 AM
re: Microsoft Office For iPad Faces Many Challenges
microsoft's Office apps not only need to be much better than all the free apps are now, but need to be much better than what the free apps will be when it comes out. It might be another year from now and Apple and Google aren't going to be sitting still. Every minute microsoft waits more consumers buy non-microsoft devices and learn that their limited needs are perfectly satisfied without Office. Getting them to switch back will be nigh on impossible.

Enterprise will be much slower to change, but BYOD makes it harder and harder for CIOs to force Office only on their workers. Already, employees are experimenting on their own with using non-Office software regardless of corporate policies. They're solving compatibility issues and finding workarounds, or just making their documents simpler. microsoft needs to hurry.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
10/10/2013 | 12:43:40 AM
re: Microsoft Office For iPad Faces Many Challenges
I still can bring myself to write anything on an iPad. The keyboard and trackpad of a laptop just works better for text entry.
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