Office for iPad a Game-Changer for Business Users, Not Consumers

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The moment businesspeople around the world have been waiting for is finally here: Office for iPad is now available. Consumers with tablets are more likely to yawn, though.

Microsoft OfficeSince the debut of the iPad, many have been clamoring for versions of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint for this very popular tablet. When Microsoft didn’t deliver, others stepped in to fill the hole — Apple’s own iWork suite of apps, which can read and save in Office file formats, is just one example.

As the wait for an official version of Office for the iPad stretching into years, the alternatives became more and more sophisticated, but still couldn’t 100% re-create the Microsoft experience.

That’s why, even four years after the launch of the original iPad, it’s big news that Microsoft has finally introduced a version of Office for this tablet.

And it’s not a stripped-down version, either. The three apps that make up this suite leave their iPhone equivalents in the dust, with a plethora of formatting options in Word, support for a huge array of chart types and formulas in Excel, and dozen of possible transitions in Powerpoint.

Microsoft Word for iPadFor the most part, the apps look and act like their Windows equivalents. Most of the differences are there because they are intended to be used with a fingertip, not a mouse. From the ground up, they have been designed to run on a tablet, not a desktop.

Great for Executives, Less So for Moms

Executives, salespeople, and other corporate types who have been supplied by their companies with iPads are going to love this suite. It’s not as fully-functional as the Windows version of Office (there’s no support for macros, for example) but this 1.0 version offers all the features most users need.

But consumers are less likely to be enraptured for a simple reason: cost. Using this suite of apps on Apple’s Tablet requires a subscription to Office 365, and the least-expensive version for individuals is $70 a year or $7 a month.

That’s going to be a tough sell when one considers that iWork is free to those who buy a new iPad. While Apple’s Pages, Numbers, and Keynote don’t have the full Office experience, they come really close. Many are going to wonder if the additional convenience is worth $70 a year.

Could Be Too Late

Apple has sold over 200 million iPads in the past four years, and during that time those millions of users have had to figure out ways to live without the official versions of Microsoft Office. Now that these people can use Word, Excel, and Powerpoint on their tablet, are they going to run out and get it, given the high price and the presence of cheaper alternatives?

Apple Pages for iPadThe situation would be very different if Office for iPad had been released years ago, not too long after it had become obvious that Apple had a hit on its hands. But the long delay gave competitors like Apple, Dataviz, Infraware, etc. time to build alternative apps that offer serious competition.

Obviously, it’s much, much too early to write Office off as irrelevant. But the fact that there are serious competitors to what was once a juggernught is a telling indication of how badly Microsoft blundered.

New Microsoft Strategy

By launching touch-centric versions of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint for Apple’s tablet before these are available for Windows devices, Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella has done something his predecessor Steve Ballmer wouldn’t have.

Baller had reportedly been sitting on the iPad version of Office while development of one for Windows-based tablets was going on. This was a benefit for the makers of those tablets — one of the major selling points of devices running Microsoft’s operating system used to be that they run Office while the iPad couldn’t.

By releasing Office for iPad first, Nadella is saying that he thinks Word, Excel, and Powerpoint are more important than Windows — that whatever device someone has, it should be able to run Office.

AnalysisSeeing as we’re at a time when tablet sales are increasing while laptop sales are dropping, Microsoft can’t afford to allow Windows to drag Office down. Apparently Ballmer couldn’t see this, but Nadella can.

And Microsoft isn’t going to stop with iOS. During today’s presentation of Office for iPad, it was also stated that this productivity suite will be introduced for other popular platforms… surely a reference to Google Android.



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