Delaying Office for iOS until 2014 gives Microsoft Surface, Windows 8 vital breathing space

Delaying Office for iOS until 2014 gives Microsoft Surface, Windows 8 vital breathing space

Summary: By holding off on Office for iOS until next year, Microsoft is giving Windows 8 and its Surface hardware a fighting chance


There's been endless discussion of whether — and, more recently, when — Microsoft would release a version of Office for iOS.

It's now possible that an iPad-friendly version of Office will not appear until autumn of next year, according to a roadmap shared with my ZDNet colleague Mary Jo Foley.

Autumn 2014 is a lot later release date than many expected, but it perhaps reflects the complicated balancing act Microsoft has to do here: any decisions around Office for iOS still have to be aligned with its wider ambitions.

On the face of it, Office for iPad could be a big cash generator for Microsoft. However, Microsoft is unlikely to go down route of selling it through Apple's app store, as Ed Bott points out, due to the hefty cut Apple takes from sales. Instead, it's more likely to follow a freemium model - offering iPad users a cut down version for gratis in the hope they'll upgrade to a paid-for version later on.

However it's sold, there's a risk for Microsoft that Office for iOS could frustrate its wider aims elsewhere. Microsoft wants to keep supporting Windows to ensure it remains the de facto enterprise desktop platform, yet delivering a version of Office – the staple of business software– on iOS will undermine just that, cutting the ties that bind enterprise customers to Windows.

After all, one of the reasons that keeps businesses from buying more iPads and fewer PCs is that there is no version of Office for iOS. And right now Microsoft doesn't want to give businesses any more reasons to stop buying PCs, not with the dire figures that came out from IDC and Gartner this week that show the steepest drop in PC sales for a generation.

Holding off on releasing a version of Office for iOS for another year could also give a much needed fillip to Surface, Microsoft's ambitious laptop-tablet hybrid, which has only been on sale for a few months.

Surface needs time to win businesses' hearts and minds, especially as cautious corporates are apt to start any Surface rollout with a small trial first with bigger deployments to follow – if they like it, of course. Offering Office on the iPad right now would make any such Surface trials irrelevant.

Pushing Office for iOS to 2014 also gives Windows 8 a chance to bed down after a rather bumpy reception. Microsoft will want enterprise customers locked into Windows 8 and bought into Surface long before offering them the option of Office on an iPad.

Microsoft has hinted before that it would be adding to the Surface line, and the Wall Street Journal claims there is a seven-inch tablet in the works for later this year, which absolutely fits with the strategy. 

Delaying Office for iOS out to 2014 means that Microsoft has given Surface a two-year window to prove itself, and gives all of Microsoft's hardware partners a chance to deliver Windows-powered hardware that can compete with the iPad.

Time is – at least for now – on Microsoft's side, as few enterprises show much inclination to ditch Office for any of the other productivity suites out there. Granted Google Apps is gaining traction, but Office is still the 800-pound gorilla.

Yet if Microsoft doesn't pull off satisfying the needs of Office users who want iPad support as well as Microsoft's need to keep them tied to Windows, there's a question of how long that status quo can continue. If Microsoft really can't manage to figure out how to pull it off by late 2014, four-and-a-half years after the iPad was launched, what hope does it have? 

Topics: Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Microsoft Surface, Windows 8

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  • Well put

    MS shouldn't release its core products in competing platforms, not even SkyDrive, OneNote and Xbox apps. Also MS needs to find a way to lower the price of tablet for the Mass market.
    • Delaying Office for iOS until 2014 gives Surface, Windows 8 vital breathing

      Another act of desperation from the flailing dinosaur.

      Wait 'till more UEFI lawsuits roll in. Then things will get exciting.

      • If MS is a dinosaur...

        ... does that make Apple a fossil?

        Apple has very little presence in the overall PC market. While you may see a Mac from time to time, they're still very much niche products.

        They fulfill only the mid-end specifications, lacking any sort of competitive edge within the high-end and low-end markets.
        • ... does that make Apple a fossil?

          I dunno. Are they?

          With all the bottom feeding junk from Dell and HP, who knows what tomorrow brings...

          • Lest you mention...

            Acer, ASUS, and Lenovo... That have competitively priced systems that ARE what tomorrow brings.
          • A sense of time

            "They have" is not what "tomorrow brings". Just two disconnected realities.

            What about today? Life is short...
          • Forget today

            Today you are on zdnet, shilling for dollars.
          • Acer, ASUS, and Lenovo...

            ...are also bottom feeding junk. Unless you look at some of their gaming systems.
    • They already do!

      Office for Mac?
    • iPad and Android is a significant market.

      If Microsoft wishes to stay relevant in the software market, then it is in their interest to develop premium applications for the other platforms. To withhold office for other problems, shows that Microsoft is in a reactionary response to the changing market, and what Microsoft needs to do, is to get ahead, take the risk and move into developing their software to reach the broader market.

      The facts are that Microsoft no longer has the monopolistic hold on the greater PC Market, and they are trying to take a reactionary defensive posture, rather than innovating in the new market.
    • Owllll1net Well put

      As usual the Redmond Mole employee defending his paycheck.

      Here is what is happening I will use a metaphor to confound you:

      The devil is pinned in the corner like a snake. Greed is what caused

      The problem for the snake is that iOS and Android are more powerful,
      tantamount to a hand grenade that can be safely thrown from a distance reducing
      the snake's fangs and venom into dust. The snake is too limited in its power.

      Aw Shucks! The snake loses!

      In other words MicroKlunk aka Mafiasoft is damned if they do and
      damned if they don't.

      Hey Microsoft: Sheer brilliance! Hoisted by One’s Own Petard!
      • Greed?

        How can you talk about greed with out mentioning Apples over the top mark ups?
        Highest profit margin of any, yet still the Apple crowd defend them!
        • Apple

          What makes you think Apple is greedy?

          Any proofs to offer? Anyone else selling Personal Computer (the hardware, software and the services) any cheaper? I know, you will point out the Surface experiment by Microsoft. It's not cheaper, sorry. Nor is it any better or competitive at all. Just an experiment.

          To give you some perspective, Apple is in the business of making personal computers since 1976. Microsoft's first experiment to build/sell a personal computer dates from last 2012.
      • Those are not common descriptors.

        MicroKlunk and Mafiasoft are highly uncommon, and thus very few of the populous would relate to such one-off simile with ease, or understanding.

        The use of "Hoisted by One's own Petard" should be segregated to it's actual meaning, and not used with such lack of understanding or forethought. It regards one's own act of defiance being not only being negated, but causing harm to the perpetrator. In your case, you start with Owllllnet being the perpetrator, but somehow conclude Microsoft becomes the 'harmed'.

        You seem to have a semblance of understanding the basics of such a semantic reparte', but fall short within your own usage, at least against anyone but yourself. One might say, without doubt, then, you have been 'hoisted by one's own petard'.
    • Indeed

      Microsoft should focus on Windows only. Bet all their business on this wonderful OS. More importantly, focus exclusively on Windows 8, which is the future. Stop selling any more Windows 7 licenses to those stupid enterprises -- this will encourage them to see the light and embrace the One True Microsoft Way.

      OwlXYZ, do we need to fill a petition somewhere for this to happen?
  • Microsoft is in the business of making money

    ... For its shareholders. It is taking an enormous risk on their behalf by restricting a subscription software to two shrinking platforms. (Windows and Mac)

    How on earth can anyone convince themselves that this is a sane business plan?
    • Exactly.

      MS has two cash cows. Office and Windows. Office is a cash cow because everyone, rightly or wrongly, believes it is a required piece of software. The longer they go not supporting the two major growing platforms the faster people will realize you can live without Office.

      Dangerous to put both cash cows at risk on a longshot move to save one.
      • Right on

        Whether or not Office is on iOS, it needs to be on Android or folks will find Evernote and other products that provide cross platform functionality and MS loses the game. Even though many are bad-mouthing Win8, I think it is as good or better than Win7 once you fix it with Star8 and other tweaks. Also, the masses may like the new tablets and smart phones, units that can function as laptops are still and will be King for a long time when it comes to serious/tedious content creation tasks -- tablets/phones are great/convenient for content consumption.
        • windows 8 and office

          Truth is, whether Windows 8 is the next best thing since sliced bread, or complete junk is pretty much irrelevant when it comes to Office and Microsoft's business. Office, being touted as productivity software suite must become multi-platform. As should all other Microsoft application software offerings.

          Microsoft, let's not forget started life as an application software developer for all personal computers. This is what they are good at. Not at "Operating Systems" as someone imagined at one point.

          But, the company is theirs, they can do whatever they please with it, including sink it. It is not Microsoft's fault, that many do not see anything besides Windows.
      • SShh, don't tell them that.

        I am getting too many Linux install and setup jobs these days to handle and don't want it to slow down.