Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

Summary: Microsoft is releasing one iPad app after another, and hopes we don't figure out why it is doing so.

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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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Topics: Windows, Tablets, Software, Operating Systems, Mobility, Microsoft, Laptops, iPad, Hardware, Collaboration, Apps

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  • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

    "the technical lead over the competition long enjoyed by Microsoft apps, especially Windows and Office, is no longer as big as it was" - in fact for many applications and the OS itself the alternatives are arguably better.
    red3dwarf
    • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

      @red3dwarf Are you serious?

      "for many applications and the OS itself the alternatives are arguably better"
      Tim Acheson
      • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

        @Tim Acheson I think he's serious. Why not?
        gtvr
      • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

        @Tim Acheson
        So no Microsoft product alternatives can be arguably better?
        anono
      • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

        @Tim Acheson Yes I'm serious. My personal preference is for Mac OS X Lion over Windows 7 and Pages over Word. I'm very familiar with all of these products and I would argue that the non-Microsoft products are better.
        red3dwarf
      • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

        @Red3dwarf: Why do you feel Pages is better than Word?
        bitcrazed
      • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

        @Tim Acheson I would hope he's serious since he's correct. Unless one is in the Enterprise setting with massive internal developers creating linked Office Apps, why on Earth would anyone pay for Office when other suites are....free?

        As a consultant to small business for ten years, I've yet to encounter one client that needed the MS-Office suite. Although I've always had to wean them, the weaning process usually takes about 2-3 days.
        bobjones2007
      • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

        @bobjones2007 simple answer, no such thing as a "free" lunch. Freeware and shareware is not traditionally user friendly, when the users are not Tech savvy.

        Besides, people have been "arguing" against Microsoft since day one. They point out flaw after flaw, and yet they always fail to weight them against flaws in others. One would have to be lock in a closet for the past decade not to know this.

        Case in point, people rave about the Mac's stability, yet they tend to get real quiet about the inability to intergrate well with non-mac hardware, software and/or infastructures. They are the most stabile, but you have to buy only Mac approved, and nothing else, which is the reason why they are stable. But people like to blame the software for hardware inegration flaws, by manufactures more concerned to get product to market then if they actually work. A concept not foreign to the marketplace, so not sure why anyone doesn't already understand that fact.

        Guess it's just easier to bash the big guy.
        MutantBeingX
      • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

        @MutantBeingX: Integrate? You do realize that there is a world outside of the corporate environment?

        These days with the tighter controls such as SOX, nobody is bringing "home" their work so compatibility with the office is moot now. At home, you only need to "integrate" with what you choose to purchase at home.

        MS Office at home is a waste of money. I would argue that it is even a waste of money for small business or home based businesses. The alternatives will import and export MS Office format well enough for the average user and most of the time, you can get away with exporting your documents to PDF or presentations to a .MOV file for end user consumption.
        aristotle_z
      • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

        @Tim Acheson
        I agree with @red3dwarf. Just compare OneNote Mobile for iPad with some of its competitors, for instance Outline (which is free BTW).
        scobel
      • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

        @anno,

        For a great many years, Microsoft has not had the best applications in any area. PowerPoint is the outstanding exception to that, or was. Though many people would argue that PowerPoint is an incredible time waster for most businesses.

        What Microsoft has tried to do is to provide 'good enough' at a price point that is among the lowest in the market. that is how they built their monopoly. They have also tried to market to the IT world through their MSCE programs.

        Now, many businesses are finding that the MSCE designation is not the true value that they were told it was. It has gotten to the point that some IT people claim that having an MSCE cert lowers their pay scale.

        Microsoft Office is a poor choice as an 'Industry Standard' because it does not maintain readability over a long or even a medium term. Just try to open a document saved in Office 95 on your new Office 10. The document is lost in only 15 years. But, you can open it in Libre Office (free competitor), or in Word Perfect (Paid competitor). As well, many large business systems can output their data in the Open Office format, as it is documented, and backwards compatible, while having only a limited ability to export Microsoft undocumented formats.

        As far as the OS goes, Linux and Unix systems can run larger servers, and run larger data bases than can any usable Windows systems. Also, Linux systems typically require around 1/3 of the number of administrators to function compared to the equivalent number of admins needed for Windows systems. Linux also requires fewer total servers to fulfill the same tasks.

        As an end user system, Linux systems often require only short training sessions for end users, as the two systems are very compatible. The training is no worse than that required to go from say the Office pull downs to the Office Ribbon systems, or from Windows XP to Windows 7. It is of course, quite different for the admins, or for the 'power users' who are people that have memorized where obscure commands or or bugs that they can take advantage of, but there are equivalent ways to do things in Linux, if they care to learn them.

        So, yes, there are many applications where Windows is a suboptimal platform.

        There are also real reasons for not using Microsoft Office. What those reasons are will vary from business to business. But, I would give you as one example, editing a document that has formatting errors in Word. In Word Perfect, it takes around 15 seconds to fix the document. In Word, often the only way to fix the paragraph is to totally retype it, then delete the entire paragraph. And please remember that Word almost NEVER is capable of importing a document from anther format without introducing formatting errors. This includes from older versions of Office, or even from the same version of Office on an older version of Windows, or from another Operating System. For most large businesses, these weaknesses in Microsoft Office cost many man-years per year, and they are completely unnecessary.

        So red3dwarf may have real reasons to not like the Microsoft solutions that so many think are the end all of existence.

        For me, it came when I was working for a city, which has a Statutory requirement that documents be kept in a readable format for literally centuries. The only possible format, until PDF came out was ASCII text. Even XML documents don't document well enough for the text conversion of legal documents or drawings needed. Drawings were of course not saveable at that time. DXF was a good attempt, but is really not very humanly readable. Microsoft Office documents are a complete non-starter. Documents from just 20 years ago in Word are completely unreadable by a new install of Microsoft Office. Office Open XML is another completely unreadable format. It still has over half of the document in bianary! These documents will be hopelessly lost if saved in ANY machine readable format in only 50 years!

        I'm sorry, but if you have any Real requirement for record keeping, and you use Microsoft Office and keep your documents on computers, then you are severely lacking in your due diligence.
        YetAnotherBob
    • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

      @red3dwarf
      You could argue, but there isn't anything as good as MS Office.
      kstap
      • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

        @kris_stapley@...

        ROFLMFAO!!!! Micro$haft Office is what it should be called. Micro$haft is best at making you believe they are the best and the closed minded continue to act like the herd and follow and believe MS marketing BS. Try climbing out of your closed box and take a look around, you might find the rest of the world to be just as good or better and definitly a lot cheaper, more reliable and more stable - Linux, OSX, and Unix are all great platforms with many more apps than M$ Winblows will ever have.
        stupidusernames
      • Master Joe Says...How Dumb

        @kris_stapley What a dumb thing to say. First off, anyon who uses variations of the names like Micro$haft shows that they have an obvious bias against the company, and that in and of itself costs you credibility. Then, you go on to talk about how bad Microsoft Office is. Really? I've used OpenOffice 3, and it is nowhere NEAR as easy to use as Office 2010, or even Office 2007, which is less polished and intuitive than 2010. It's obvious you dislike Microsoft, and that's fine. There were some things that happened in the 90s that caused some people to dislike Microsoft. Then again, there are people who are still complaining about things that happened over a hundred years ago, so go figure. In any case, you might be better off changing your username to BrokenNeedle because you are clearly missing the point. Then again, that's not all that uncommon for the comments I've seen on ZDNet for a long time now.

        --Master Joe
        SteelCityPC
      • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

        @kris_stapley@... Outlook (Exchange) and Access are really the only MSO apps that are unique. Sure Word fits nicely into accounting apps for mail merge but the rest of MSO is either useless or replaceable. I think MS could go somewhere with Mesh if it worked hard on it. Distributed networking is a cool thing and apps like dropbox don't cut it. The problem with mesh is it only runs on a couple of platforms. Smart of MS to branch out with MSO or they will die.
        LarsDennert
      • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

        @lwright Haha! I see what you did there. You replaced the "s" in Microsoft with a dollar sign, and the word "soft" with "shaft." You clever thing, you!
        ParrotHead_FL
      • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

        @kris_stapley@... In your opinion and that's what counts for each of u.

        Personally was absolutely delighted to jump the Microsoft ship after 20 years.

        But, as opposed to the consultant above, my company and I prefer MS office .. perhaps just because it has been our "way of life' for so many years.

        I have it on my iMac and Macbook along with MS apps on my iPad and iPhone
        n781lc
      • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

        @kris_stapley@... That's really only true because you are currently acclimated to MS Office menus and systems. I don't think there's anything wrong with MS Office, its just an office productivity package. What makes it have value in the corporate world is that it is supported. If a smaller company or individual doesn't require that support, there's no reason in the world, other than habit, to choose to spend a few hundred dollars per seat on software when there is a functionally equivalent product that costs zero dollars.

        To someone that isn't very familiar with MSO but is familiar with OO; OO is much easier to use. That doesn't make OO good or bad, it just acknowledges the user's level of experience.

        nb.. I have purchased tons of MS products, fine company, decent software usually. I just don't see anything in MSO that would cause me to believe it has any additional value over OO for our uses.
        rwwff
      • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

        @kris_stapley@... agreed, and even if there were a way to objectively prove or disprove this, there's nothing like that original bread recipe that you feel at home with.
        franjelley
      • RE: Secret behind Microsoft iPad apps

        [i]@lwright Haha! I see what you did there. You replaced the "s" in Microsoft with a dollar sign, and the word "soft" with "shaft." You clever thing, you![/i]

        Looks like he did it to jerk your chain. And it worked, too. ;)
        ScorpioBlue