Everybody wants Microsoft® to get their act together and ship the Office suite for the iPad. More often than not the first questions I get from someone new to the iPad is, “How do I install Office.” And frankly, it is a valid question. So far my answer is always, you can’t get Office until Microsoft® makes it available for the iPad.
But, at this point though I’m not even sure Microsoft® knows if they are going to ship a version of Office for the iPad. Initially we heard reports that Microsoft® is planning on announcing Office for iOS and Android next March. Sounds good, right around the time Apple might bring the next iPad to market. Excellent timing for Microsoft® announce that Office is available as well.
But not more than a few hours later another executive at Microsoft® said the previous reports were “not accurate.” Spectacular. At this point I have to wonder at what point everyone will realize that they don’t need Office and that the file formats; .docx, .pptx, .xlsx, is all anyone really cares about. It is about interoperability. You don’t need Office, you just need an application that can read and save to a file type supported by Office.
And there are plenty of applications in the App Store that are glad to oblige, starting with Apple’s own iWork suite, Pages, Keynote and Numbers.
Some have suggested that Microsoft® is apprehensive to allow Apple to take 30% of there sale. But Microsoft® isn’t complaining about every retail store in the world doing the same thing. Retail isn’t about selling an item and not getting a cut, it is all about getting a cut; and that cut is usually 30%.
The upside of the App Store is that Microsoft®, or any other developer, doesn’t have to pay the cost of pressing millions of DVDs with their software, designing and manufacturing the packaging for their software or paying to have software shipped around the globe. You just submit a file and Apple takes care of the rest. Including providing millions of customers willing to purchase software, and a buying experience that is nearly fool proof I’d say if that isn’t worth 30% it is pretty damn close.
Steve Balmer recently stated that Microsoft® is going to perform a major shift of focus and strategy, looking to adopt the Apple model of developing the software and hardware for their products. Surface, it seems, is just the first step. Good for them. I hope it works. But they are still leaving money on the table. As of now they are a software company. The only hardware Microsoft® manufactures that makes money are mice, keyboards and the Xbox, and it took the Xbox 5 years to start making money. Right now they have a brand in Office that enjoys ubiquity across the globe and it seems foolish to forfeit that position and ignore two dominate mobile platforms.
I guess I look at it this way; I might ask to have a Kleenex® brand tissue to blow my nose, but do I care if it is Kleenex® or just that it functions like a Kleenex®? Now I don’t need Office, I just need software that can read and save in Office format. What happens in the middle, the software I use, can be anything that approximates Office.