Forget Office for iPad: Mobile is threatening full Office

Forget Office for iPad: Mobile is threatening full Office

Summary: A lot has been said about the rumored upcoming appearance of Office for iPad, including that it's too late to make a difference. Actually, thanks to mobile tech, it may be too late for regular Office.

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office-anywhere
(Image: Google)

Office for iPad is expected to be announced by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in just a few days. This rumor has triggered excitement from some, as well as the reaction that it is coming too late. I'm not on either side of that fence. I think it might be too late for all incarnations of Office.

Like millions, I was firmly entrenched in the Microsoft Office trough for more years than I can count on two hands. I lived in Office documents all of most work days. I took at least a dozen pages of handwritten notes in OneNote every single day. I was Mr. Office when it came to work.

And then mobile happened.

Even though the documents I received were created by someone in some office using Microsoft's suite, I no longer needed it to review them.

Mobile office suites started appearing on my phones and tablets. They could display most Office documents just fine for reference, even complex ones. They weren't particularly good at editing them and maintaining fancy formatting, but for viewing documents they were OK.

Using these mobile apps to review Office documents sent via email drove home that, for the most part, this is what I was doing with Office documents. Clients and colleagues were sending me Word documents and Excel spreadsheets for me to review and comment on the contents. They usually didn't want me to edit them and send them back, just to take a look at them.

It didn't take me long to realize that the main mobile office suites not only handled this well, but they didn't require me to pull the laptop out of my gear bag. I could tap on the document attached to the email and instantly be looking at the fancy spreadsheet, presentation, or text document. 

I did this on my phone at first, and eventually on one tablet or another. Whatever gadget was handy, that's what I used. Even though the documents I received were created by someone in some office using Microsoft's suite, I didn't need it to review them.

Having this review capability on my mobile devices, it wasn't long before I started using them to create documents I previously would only use Microsoft Office to produce. I couldn't create documents or spreadsheets with complex formatting, but the fact was I rarely created those anyway. Basic documents were easy to build using these apps, and they could output in Office format so that those still entrenched in Microsoft's world could use them without problems.

It was the formatting that restricted the competition for Microsoft Office in the beginning, but these mobile apps got better at negating that advantage. The more documents I sent to others, the more I realized they were just as good as the real deal most of the time. It became rare that a recipient of one of my mobile documents could even tell it wasn't created with "real" Office.

I have an Office Online subscription, just in case some work thing comes up that absolutely requires real Office. I can't remember the last time I created a document with it instead of a mobile alternative. I suspect I'm not alone in that regard based on numerous conversations with others in the same situation.

Microsoft still rules the enterprise roost with Office and will for some time. It's the de facto standard for work documents and will be for the foreseeable future. 

But with iPads entering the workplace in ever greater numbers, Microsoft must get Office for iPad released ASAP. It can't afford for iPad owners, and especially corporations, to discover that alternative mobile office suites can handle most, if not all, of what they currently use Office to do.

That's why Microsoft is willing to negate its big advantage over the mobile competition by producing a version of Office for the iPad. They must protect the illusion that Office is required to do real work, even though many like me have discovered that's not the case.

Don't be surprised if an Android version of Office follows on the heels of the iPad release. Office everywhere needs to be Microsoft's motto, and perhaps it will. 

See related:

Topics: Mobility, Apps, Smartphones, Tablets

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88 comments
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  • Depends on your defination of "real work"

    Sure I only need a viewer on my phone but I have "real office" installed on laptop and desktop. Just in case I need to do "real work". I bet you purchase that stuff called "Cola" at the grocery store instead of Coke.
    LOL
    thekman58
    • BTW I like your articles James

      You like mobile regardless of the platform, iOS, Win 8.1 etc...
      thekman58
      • You can use OneDrive for MS Office on mobile devices

        The Word, Excel and Powerpoint versions are free in One Drive and are good enough for most work. You don't need an Office 365 subscription. However, I think the next generation does not think much about Office.
        GoForTheBest
        • I agree - we used Google Docs here but

          the office with OneDrive has a much better UX.
          ScanBack
        • You are correct, Next Gen says "Office??"

          What the article describes is exactly what is going to continue to eat away at Office dominance (finally). The next gen is actually used to creating through web interfaces on blogs and other types of database driven applications that give them enough formatting required to PUBLISH. The OLD way is to format to PRINT.

          It should be interesting to see how this whole thing shakes out over the next couple of years.
          Technical John
    • Where you work and what you do...

      I think it all depends on where you work and what you are doing.

      I work in an office, as do 98% of our workers. They sit at a desk all day and work on large screens with keyboards and mice. None of them would swap their Windows terminal or notebook for a tablet. For the couple of hours they spend in meetings every week a notepad and pen are sufficient.

      They spend their time in Office documents, as well as vi for editing scripts and various code editors. For them mobile applications are pointless. They might have a tablet at home, but they don't need one or use one at work - in fact, the ones that get a company tablet often ask what they are supposed to do with it and it spends most of its time in the bottom drawer of their desk.

      For mobile users or those in sales meetings all day long, it can be a boon, but for the average worker, there is just no need.
      wright_is
    • If you can make do with Office on ipad

      Then you are not that important to MS. Really.
      It's not like Office on iPad will be the full DVD install you will get on Windows. It will just be Office Mobile and as I see it, it will just introduce the "but I have MS Office on my ipad" excuse when they can't do what the full blown Office can.
      As for the argument that Office for iPad is needed to bring them back to MS, well, if anything, it will simply encourage them to use iOS instead of windows as they will think Office for iPad is the real deal and have no reason to use windows or even a desktop OS.
      Office for iPad will actually drive users away from MS and not bring them back.
      warboat
      • What is this “DVD” for Software?

        Office won’t be the “full DVD”? What are you talking about? The last time I heard of anyone using optical storage was for movies. Doesn’t everyone just download their software? [1]

        These days, who on earth bothers filling in a form and waiting a week for a company to send them a “CD” or a “DVD”?

        If I have 3gb of data to swap with a company or a friend then I use Dropbox. (Why would I use a honking big DVD that only holds 4.5gb?)

        When I have something more sizeable to move, such as 30gb of data or sending a TV series to a friend, I use a USB stick: they fit in your jeans without breaking!

        It’s hard to see the point of CDs and DVDs these days. I think Apple did the right thing when they stopped including optical drives in some Macs. If you *really* need one, you can always buy an external optical drive that connects via USB.

        [1] Before someone writes a superior reply about software delivery by DVD, I’m joking to make a point.
        Slurry
    • Ya, this is a great example of rediculous.

      The title is ludicrous
      "Forget Office for iPad: Mobile is threatening full Office"

      Ya! Ha! Right! Sure it is.

      And George Macfly is threatening the Incredible Hulk. So what. We know how that ends.
      Cayble
  • When will everyone wise up?

    Business has changed.
    And not for the better.
    I get more emails and texts that look like they came from a teenager than I can count.
    And they're from business associates, vendors, and customers!
    If Business is becoming that lax with the English language and professional image, why does it matter how the document is formatted?
    American businesses need to start getting off the MS monkey and move on to free (or cheaper) Office applications.
    It boggles the mind when I think of how much money my company spends on MS products when there are so many other, less expensive, and more than adequate solutions to be found.
    Stop defending MS Office.
    Start looking at better alternatives.
    I'm talking about the academia world as well...
    Angryshortguy
    • It's reality

      I work in a regulatory controlled world. Forms, letters, documents, spreadsheets, etc. are embedded to deeply to migrate from Office anytime in the near future. Formatting display for non-Office apps is critical.
      I can and do use non-Office apps frequently for create / change. Unfortunately I can't just drop Office.
      rhonin
    • People would be looking - no, people would be using "better alternatives"

      if they existed.

      It really doesn't matter if you like MS or not, the bottom line is that MS Office IS the best Office suite.
      William.Farrel
      • Typical mindless Farrel response

        Visicalc, Lotus 123 and Wordperfect were also the best. And then things changed.

        And that is precisely what is happening now, even if you are too dogmatic to see or admit it.

        I would love to hear from you in five years time, but by then you will have disappeared with your tail between your legs.
        Economister
        • Wouldn't it be easier

          Just to look back 5 years at people like you that were making that same claim back then... and still are too dogmatic to admit they have been wrong?
          JennTech
        • Ha! Lotus 123!!

          Now that beings back some green on black DOS memories!!

          Ah olivetti M24.... What a simple beast you were!
          MarknWill
        • WotdPerfect

          I still use WordPerfect for generating documents for court, and I love it. We use Access. I use Google docs some. Mostly I just write emails. I hate Word's lack of reveal codes and less vigorous formatting.
          bigsteve666
          • Lawyers seem to be the only ones still using WordPerfect ...

            ... but they have to keep MS Word around because virtually NONE of their clients use WordPerfect. Of course, attorneys WANT their clients to be completely dependent upon them for legal documents.
            M Wagner
        • Of course, because everybody else is mindless except you, Economister

          No, I won't even bother with you in five years times, because at that point you'll still be saying "You wait - in 5 years time MS Office will be history.."

          You see, I don't listen to the same record day, after day, after day...
          William.Farrel
        • Yes, and if the Titanic never hit the iceburg....

          Your post is nonsensical.

          If you don't know it than who cares what you say.

          Who cares what was the best. It took MS little time to dispatch with Wordperfect. I know, as a fact. I used Wordperfect before Office and Word crushed it. I seen it coming from miles away like a powerhouse freight train bearing down on a squirrel on the tracks.

          Really think about your post. It has no point and makes little sense.
          Cayble
      • Office is the best... but do we need 'the best' all the time?

        Suppose Mercedes makes the best cars, but people still drive Fords, and for a good reason.
        ForeverSPb