Microsoft's Office for iPad: It's all about the business users

Microsoft's Office for iPad: It's all about the business users

Summary: Who is the primary target for Microsoft's new Office for iPad suite? It's unfashionable to say this, but it's not consumers. It's business users.


I've seen quite a few stories in the run-up to Microsoft's March 27 announcement about Office for iPad claiming that Microsoft is providing too little, too late with its newest Office suite.


I think those blog posts and commentaries ignore the primary target audience for the new suite: Business users.

CNET Video: Microsoft Office for iPad in action

I am sure there are some business users, especially in Silicon Valley, who can say—with a relatively straight face—that it's been years since they've seen a Microsoft PowerPoint file. But here in the rest of the (real) world, many businesses of all sizes have standardized on Microsoft Office.

That's why Microsoft's decision to make full functionality of the Office for iPad suite available to those with Office 365 subscriptions isn't as nutty as some (nuts) are claiming. To unlock features like OneDrive for Business document storage or create a new Excel spreadsheet, users must have a "qualifying" Office 365 plan. While a couple of those plans are aimed at consumers/students/home users, the other eligible Office 365 plans are for small businesses, mid-size businesses, enterprise customers and government users.


Here's what you can do with the free (no Office 365 subscription required) version of Office for iPad: View documents, copy and paste between documents, share via attachments, and present using PowerPoint. To create new documents, edit and format them, save to OneDrive or SharePoint, you need to pay for an Office 365 subscription.

Office on iPad was just one part of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's message today about the intersection of mobile and cloud. The other part was, again, very much focused on Microsoft's enterprise-user sweet spot. Microsoft's Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) is a management play for big business customers who need to manage not just Windows and Windows Phone devices, but also Android, iOS, and Mac OS ones. Big business users = big money.

Think about this from Microsoft's perspective. What's more valuable to Microsoft? The $10 or so one-time fee the company might have charged iPad users for the full-featured versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for the iPad? (Minus the 30-percent cut Microsoft would have to pay Apple for selling a paid app through its store.) Or a chance to get recurring subscription revenues from iPad users who might need Microsoft Office—and nothing but Office—in order to insure full document fidelity at work? Plus a chance to try to get users hooked on other cloud services, like OneDrive cloud storage, the Windows Intune device-management service and Azure Active Directory Premium.

Would I go so far as to claim Office on iPad is a loss leader for Microsoft, given Office 365, OneDrive, Windows Intune and Azure are the assets Redmond is counting on for future growth? Why, yes, yes I would. No one from Microsoft will say this on the record, of course. But somewhere, in an Excel spreadsheet deep inside the hallowed Redmond halls, that very calculation has been made. 


Topics: CXO, Apple, Cloud, iOS, iPad, IT Priorities, Microsoft, Mobility, IT Policies


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • its all about the end of windows too

    basically ipads will soon challenge windows clients. so apple keeps 30% of your office revenue, and kills your business OS. sounds like A plan.
    • Whhat?

      Apple does get 30%, so you must be a troll. Plus the days of the operating system is drying, it all about the backend and the cloud and msft has that in shades.
      • Apple doesn't get anything from free apps

        which is what these are. You have to get a subscription to unlock them, which keeps all revenue in Microsoft's pockets.
        • Looks like a 1-year IAP

          There seems to be a ~$100 in-app purchase that gives what I presume to be a year's worth of Office 365. Obviously, Apple will be getting 30% of that, but I wonder how much of any re-ups they'll be getting.

          In any case, that one would probably be for newcomers who might be interested in the service. Microsoft might be disappointed in that, but if these people wouldn't have gotten 365 before, it's better than nothing.
          Third of Five
    • If wishes were fishes...

      ...beggars would eat.

      Too bad for you, it would seem.
    • $0

      30% of $0 is $0, just simple math. There is a reason all this apps are free in the iPad big companies will not share revenue with a competitor. I'm sure there will be no option to signup to Office365 from the App.
    • re:

      In your dreams iBoy.
      Sir Name
    • Microsoft OneDrive

      Microsoft OneDrive is needed to store Office files for smartphones and tablets. OneDrive is really pretty good - a lot like Dropbox.

      If you sign up through this referral link, you will receive an additional 0.5GB of online storage:
  • What Apple gets

    Hi. Apple gets the 30% if a customer signs up for Office 365 from within the free Office for iPad apps/suite. But if they get Office 365 sub first and then download the free apps, Apple doesn't get anything, I hear. MJ
    Mary Jo Foley
    • And businesses

      probably can't sign up for a thousand seat license through the iPad app...
  • Glad i'm a Linux user

    On the one hand we have the once cut throat, dominant MS flailing in its death throws trying to eek out the last juice from it's boring, mundane office software. And on the other hand we have the villainous apple taking a cut of of everything with their big brother Orwellian app store.

    It's like two huge evil piles of --- collided to make an even bigger, more disgusting, pile of ---.

    I am thankful for Linux and free (as in freedom) software.
    • Congratulations.

      Have fun with your FOS software.

      If you can deal with the limitations of OpenOffice/LibreOffice/whatever you use, then good for you.

      The rest of us will stick with Office.
      • Thanks

        I do have fun with it. Haven't run into any limitations. In fact, I've found I can actually do MORE with Libre/Open office than I can with MS Office. Libre/OO aren't just office suites, they're also very full featured APIs. I've successfully used Libre office in web apps for helping users bound to MS office actually get stuff done.

        This would not have been possible with MS office. I actually feel sorry for users stuck with restrictive proprietary software.
        • LOL.

          Do you realize MS Office has programming interface that is richer than many you mentioned. You have VBA, .NET API, Smart Tags and now apps that can run within Office You're totally wrong. Probably you're talking about WordPad that comes Windows.
          Ram U
    • re:

      I think I hear your mom calling from the kitchen. Maybe she's got you a sandwich made. You know, with the crust cut off the way you like it? Run on up the basement stairs now.
      Sir Name
  • iPad! What about Android?

    When will they release it for the Android tablets?
    • Perhaps when the Android mess has stopped being so fractured?

      MS is making Office available to iOS 7; which Android version is stable enough, and has been around long enough, to get Office written for it?
      • Bingo. Android has to either get homogenized or else.

        For Android to really get traction with serious applications, it has to be homogenous enough for the apps to run consistently and reliably. The various flavors, incarnations and mutations that are being sold today are just holding Android back.
        terry flores
    • Android users are different

      They like free apps and are more picky about the quality of them.
      MS did the right thing, if office for iPad don't generate enough revenue, it's better not even trying it for android.
      I'm sure andoid will come soon if MS will be succeeded with iPad.
  • Smart move

    Hope they do come out with an Android version too. In a content driven world the money is in the content and not the platform. Would you rather be Zenith, Magnavox, JVC or Sony who made great TV's but died or got out of the business - OR - Would you be CBS? Who is making money selling the content to run on the TV's. The more ubiquitous the app is the less market power any one device has. Go Satya!