Microsoft Releases Office on the iPad

by Matt Klassen on March 28, 2014

On the job for only two months and new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is already putting his indelible stamp on the company, this time by doing something his predecessors were always hesitant to do: Releasing Office on the iPad. While long expected, the announcement officially came yesterday at a Microsoft event in San Francisco, a move that, as mentioned, stands as a significant break from the old guard at the Redmond Company.

In fact, under the leadership of former company head Steve Ballmer it seemed to me that Microsoft was attempting to convince itself that there was no competition worthy of the PC giant’s attention. Of course the underlying motivation there was the desire to push Microsoft products, instead of using the company’s Office cash cow to help sell competitor’s rival platforms.

But now under the watchful eye of Nadella Microsoft has made a radical shift, gambling that by releasing Office 365 on the iPad that it can win back all those former PC users who now find themselves using free (and often inferior) alternatives because of their devotion to their favourite Apple products. While it remains to be seen if such a gamble will pay off, it’s at least encouraging to see Microsoft try something… which itself is a huge departure from the Ballmer era.

To be fair, wanting to maintain one’s own closed ecosystem of software and hardware products is a common strategy in the tech world, with companies like Apple and Microsoft knowing that the real money in such a market comes from controlling operations end-to-end. Further, there isn’t much appetite among the tech elite for undercutting their own products. We saw Apple do this to itself with the release of the iPad Mini, and its clear Microsoft has long been hesitant to give any competitor products any added advantage over its own struggling Surface tablet series.

But while Apple continues to steadfastly maintain its isolationist philosophy, its clear by this announcement that under Nadella Microsoft has abandoned such thinking, gambling that by making its software available on competing platforms that it will pay increased dividends in the long run, particularly given that Microsoft Office is unquestionably the company’s most popular product.

As CNET’s Charles Cooper explains, “The long-expected announcement is a calculated risk that Microsoft’s support of a major rival’s competing tablet will work to its advantage. The hope is that enough iPad users will forego free alternatives such as Google Docs and Apple’s iWorks software, and so compensate for potentially lost sales of its own Windows-based Surface tablets.”

Further, Cooper writes, “The decision to make Microsoft’s cash cow available on a product sold by one of its arch rivals not only breaks with a long Windows-centric history, it also sends a signal from the new boss that more big changes are in store.”

With such a move its clear Microsoft has finally become aware of the now dominant BYOD movement across the business sector, as business professionals no longer want a work specific smartphone or tablet, they want their favourite devices, and for tablets that still means Apple’s iPad. Instead of thinking that eventually business professionals will see the light and return to Microsoft’s Windows-based products, Microsoft has taken a proactive approach to reach its potential customers where they are, not where Microsoft would like them to be.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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