Microsoft Office for iPad is way more than just an „app“
„If I only had the real office on my iPad…“ – that’s one of the most common thoughts business users have had during the last years, when trying to simply access common Microsoft Office documents on Apple’s tablet PC flagship. And that’s a quote used by Julia White, Microsofts product manager for the office family, during the company’s press briefing on March, 27th. She even demo’ed what this feeling is about in reality by showing a Word document with iOS’s internal standard viewer. Wrong font sizes, pictures misplaced, totally screwed up in general. That’s the sobering experience iPad users are familiar with when trying to use their most beloved gadget for the most simple business purposes.
So the reason for Microsoft’s decision to bring Office to the iPad seems to be quite obvious: Make the world’s major work tool (more than 1 billion users) available on the world’s most popular tablet (more than 200 Million supposed). Simple as that. But it’s far more than just this. Not in terms of bringing another (more or less cool) app to Apple’s AppStore, but in terms of what this means from a strategic, political, maybe even game changing new direction for Microsoft and it’s fairly new CEO Satya Nadella.
In October 2012, I published a short blogpost on Germany’s leading mobility blogs mobile-zeitgeist.de, mentioning the first „proven“ signs of Microsoft finally planning to release Office for iPad in 2013 – after several months of rumors. Why did it take the world’s biggest software forge almost two years to bring their most important, essential product to iOS? Technical issues? A deliberate product strategy to strengthen the market position of their own tablet products? Or simply Mr. Ballmers aversion against Apple?
There might be a significant redirection underway in Microsofts overall strategy and understanding of the global markets. Nadella named it: The ubiquity of apps, data, services. Platform independence. The user’s demand for provisioning of their preferred tools on their preferred platforms, leveraging as-a-service models. Maybe Nadella has recognized that if the company wants to regain ground, Microsoft could benefit from the world’s leading mobile platforms if they embrace them instead of fighting them. Or maybe he just recognized that the IT world of tomorrow is not about iPads, Androids and Surfaces at all, that it will be much more focused the way products are being consumed.
Some „learnings“ Microsoft has shown me during today’s presentation:
- The iPad is the most popular tablet in business. There’s (currently) no way to fight it, therefore better embrace it to regain & bind business users.
- Providing Office for iPad as a „freemium“-app will be a smart, smooth & attractive entry point for potential Office 365 users.
- Emphasizing cloud-based Office 365 as a flagship product is a massive commitment to as-a-service paradigms.
- The also announced Enterprise Mobility Suite emphasizes the companies recognition of iOS & Android as leading mobile platforms and the game-changing effect of BYOT / outside-in IT.
- Nadellas „Mobile First – Cloud First“ focus and the announcement of open, rich APIs to all their cloud-based (Azure) services are more indications for the company’s supposed move to a more open, agile, flexible and maybe less stubborn next-generation Microsoft.
Microsoft Office for the iPad is way more than just a simple software release – it may be a first relevant sign of where their new CEO may lead the „Softies“ to stay one of the leading tech companies.