10 Oct 2012

Microsoft's dilemma: Office for iPad/Android?

Should Microsoft release Office for other platforms? If you’re an Android or iOS user, you’ll have felt the pain when it comes to working with Office documents. While there are a range of third-party apps that will open and edit Word and Excel files, there is still no official app from Microsoft. Microsoft has repeatedly hinted that it is considering Office for iOS and Android. But it faces a dilemma: should it embrace the huge Android and iOS market, or keep Office exclusive to Windows Mobile to drive Surface adoption? The case for other versions Let’s consider the reasons why Microsoft might be tempted to support non-Windows users. Currently, the vast majority of tablet devices run on iOS or Android, over 96% in 2011. It is a huge and lucrative market. Microsoft already supports Mac OS with Office for Mac. It offers an iOS app for OneNote and well as version of its Lync communications software. Gartner analyst Michael Silver believes that if Microsoft is really serious about continued competition for Office, it will have to have an iPad version. Keeping Office exclusive So why is Microsoft holding back? The reality is that Office is a critical, most-wanted app for many businesses. It’s likely that Microsoft judges its presence would be enough to tip a purchase decision from Android to Windows. In fact, Morgan Stanley noted recently that Office will be a key feature driving Windows 8 tablet market growth and share gains. Office is also a bigger cash cow for Microsoft than Windows. Uncertain future For now, Microsoft is clearly making Windows the priority platform for the next version of Office. Rumours persist that an iOS version is underway, with alleged screenshots even published, and job postings for PowerPoint and Excel developers for work on “the Mac and on iOS”. Microsoft, however, isn’t confirming anything except its commitment to Surface. The risk is that a third party provider, or even Google, eventually creates a mobile productivity suite compelling enough to shake Office’s dominance. With mobile already disrupting the way people work, the kinds of documents they use and the way they share and collaborate on them, the future is ripe for some big changes. But by that time, Microsoft will know how successful Office has been in driving Windows tablet sales, and can reassess its decision to support – or not support – iOS and Android. IDC currently predicts it will grow its 1% share to 4% this year, and 11% by 2012. Would Office for iOS or Android change your purchasing plans? How vital is mobile Office for your business? Stephen Sims is the Brennan IT’s General Manager – Sales and Marketing