Microsoft has tongues wagging over its rapid pace of releasing apps for the iPad. There are those who believe the folks from Redmond should only develop app versions for its own platforms, namely Windows and Windows Phone. Others believe Microsoft is simply being competitive by having apps on competing platforms in addition to its own. Microsoft is a software company, after all, and is just releasing as many versions of its products as possible.
I believe the truth is a little more obscure, that Microsoft fears that the more consumers get exposed to alternative products on other platforms, the more they will desert the company's flagship products.
I have no insider information behind my theory, but I believe this insecurity is also behind Microsoft's insistence in making Windows 8 both the next desktop platform and the new tablet OS. The mobile space is hot, and the more customers get exposed to the competition, the more will realize for the first time that competing alternatives have come a long way and are in fact pretty good.
Don't misunderstand me, Microsoft Windows and Office will continue to be standards for the near future. The business market will be safe, as the enterprise won't be willing to switch away from supported standards. There will still be customers that need the real thing from Microsoft, and not some competitor's knockoffs. But for a lot of folks the competitor's offerings will be good enough to meet their needs. Microsoft has not faced a significant risk of its installed user base jumping ship in the past as most of those customers never tried the competition first-hand.
The outstanding growth of the mobile space has changed that, with both Android and iOS dominating the sector so strongly. This has resulted in hundreds of millions of mobile customers trying apps, including those that do the same thing as Microsoft apps, for the first time. A lot of these apps even work with documents created by Microsoft apps. These new mobile customers are seeing for themselves that the technical lead over the competition long enjoyed by Microsoft apps, especially Windows and Office, is no longer as big as it was.
People are already discovering that a number of office suite apps exist for both the iPad and for Android tablets. These apps are pretty darn good, and even offer a good level of compatibility with existing Microsoft Office documents. Tablet users are finding them to be acceptable replacements for the Microsoft software they thought they had to have. Once they make the switch on mobile devices, it is only natural to do so on the desktop, too.
I think that is the driver behind the Microsoft effort with Windows 8 for tablets and all of these iPad apps. I believe this fear of customers discovering they do not have to use Microsoft apps to do what they need is the only reason Microsoft would produce iPad versions of Microsoft Office. They don't really expect the iPad software division to be a big producer, but they do believe it might stem the inevitable desertion likely to happen if iPad owners use apps similar to the cash cows of Redmond. It's a preemptive strike; we'll have to wait to see if it is in time or not.
Image credit: Flickr user worak
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