The iPad Won't Save Microsoft

If you can't beat 'em, you may as well develop for 'em. 

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) CEO Satya Nadella will host his first press event as helmsman of the world's largest software company next week. The Verge and several other outlets are hearing that Nadella will be announcing the introduction of Office for iPad at the March 27 gathering. 

It's a move that's long overdue, but at this point, it's really just a matter of too little, too late. Let's start off by pointing out that Microsoft Office has been available for Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) Macs for ages. Last year, Microsoft buckled to the pressure of growing iOS usage, offering up an iPhone version. Next week's iPad version will reportedly be similar to the iPhone edition. It will require an Office 365 subscription for editing, and the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps will offer document creation and editing. 

This would have been big news if it had happened in 2010 when the iPad hit the market or two years later when Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Android had yet to overtake iOS as the world's tablet operating system of choice. It also would have made sense early in the rollout before consumers realized that there were plenty of free or nearly free alternatives to Microsoft's word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations solutions. 

However, Microsoft likely thought that holding back on Office would either give PCs an edge in the mobile computing revolution or make its own tablet platform stand out. It failed on both fronts. PC sales have continued to languish at the expense of smartphone and tablet sales. Surface RT -- Microsoft's shot at the entry-level tablet market that made a tweaked version of Office a differentiator in its marketing -- was a dud. The more full-featured Windows 8-backed Surface has held up relatively better, but that's only a testament to how little Office matters these days.

You can't blame Nadella. Microsoft was too slow to embrace the mobile challenge under Steve Ballmer, and now Nadella is simply trying to make up for lost time and squandered market share. However, it's hard to fathom Office becoming a mobile standard now. It has a shot. There are still a lot of people who use it at work or on their home PCs and laptops. Google hasn't made enough waves with its cloud-based alternatives to topple Office as the top dog in productivity suites. However, the mobile revolution took off without Microsoft's blessing because cranking out text documents, spreadsheets, and graphical presentations just didn't become that important to folks on the go.

Once again, Microsoft is too late.

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  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2014, at 9:58 PM, techy46 wrote:

    First, anybody with a web internet connection can log in to Office 365 including Android, iOS and OSx devices. Second, there's a lot of people that are actually employed at enterprises that use Office and have iPads. Third, iWorks is just fine for kids, grandparents and other technically challenged types like the author.

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2014, at 11:25 PM, Cintos wrote:

    Note that MS gets a 4% kick for capitulating and developing Office Kit for a competitor's tablet/ecosystem, while the tablet maker only gets a 1% rise. The cosmic shift is palpable, but Mr. Market remains convinced Apple is doomed.

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2014, at 9:16 PM, Dvoraak wrote:

    I never tried any office apps in my iPhone days (who would want to view a spreadsheet on that screen) but I've used many office apps on Android phones and tablets. They all have their strong and weak points but I was very very grateful when Office 365 finally arrived on Android. It stands head and shoulders above the alternatives for someone using Excel extensively.

    Funnily enough, my love of Office 365 is exactly equal to my loathing of W8. I'd be happy enough if MS became an office software company and left OS development and gaming to others who don't have their heads stuck so far up their............

  • Report this Comment On March 22, 2014, at 1:45 PM, don1941t wrote:

    yeah ... satya has been in charge for almost a month now. I'm sure the very first thing he did when he got the nod was to whip out an IOS version of office, one of the most complex pieces of software ever created.

    After all, how hard could it be to take a legacy suite of software and port it to an entirely foreign host environment?

    Once again the fools writing here prove their anti-MSFT bias and completely ignore any facts. This has obviously been in the works for some time, that includes the Ballmer era. You can safely call MSFT slow but I would never call them stupid.

    Please get a new fact checker before publishing your rants and tripe.

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