Office for iPad: That ship has sailed

Office for iPad: That ship has sailed

Summary: Industry watchers have long been looking for Microsoft to produce a version of Office for the iPad. Odds are, owners of the iPad aren't looking.

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Office iPad

Rumors about a version of Microsoft Office for the iPad have been around for a long time and resurface every so often. While it has been said that the folks in Redmond have already produced an unreleased Office for iPad, it's apparently buried in the back halls somewhere on the vast Microsoft campus.

Our own Mary Jo Foley has been expecting Office for iPad for so long that she's now openly asking why it's taking Microsoft so long to release it. She smartly wonders if Microsoft is sitting on Office to give the company's Surface tablets a leg up on the iPad. That makes sense but it may already be too late for Office to make an impact on the iPad.

Had a version of Office for the iPad been released a few years ago it might, and that's a very uncertain might, have been snapped up by iPad owners. Office is familiar to many given its long history on Windows and that probably would have led to sales to iPad owners.

A stripped down Office couldn't be sold as full Office for the iPad, so there would be no real advantage over existing apps for the iPad.

Now it's a different story, as the absence of Office for iPad owners has pushed those who need the capability Office provides to turn to competitive products. Apple's own office suite, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, has been a top seller for a long time. These apps are good enough for most buyers as they can be used to easily produce attractive documents. There are also several third-party office suites for those who don't care for the Apple apps.

Most of these apps can read documents in Office format directly and import into the app properly. Office documents that have been created using sophisticated, little used features of Microsoft Office, may not appear exactly as they would in genuine Office, but odds are not very many iPad owners work with those. Simpler documents, the kind most commonly used by iPad owners, can be used just fine without Microsoft Office on the tablet.

Complex documents that require full Office to use properly could be a selling point for an iPad version, but that's a double-edged sword for Microsoft. For those who need full Office, the version for the iPad would have to rival the Windows version. Office is a huge, feature-laden piece of software and there's no way a full port to the iPad would be done. It's probably not even possible to include many of the features. A stripped down Office couldn't be sold as full Office for the iPad, so there would be no real advantage over existing apps for the iPad.

Odds are, those who need full Office on a tablet have already bought, or plan to buy, a Windows tablet. Microsoft is using Office as a selling point for its Surface tablets, and that's an effective angle. Need Office, buy a Windows tablet. 

That runs counter to selling Office for the iPad. If the iPad version is full featured, then there's no need to buy a Surface. If it's not, then buying a Windows tablet is all that makes sense. You can't have it both ways and expect to sell a lot of Office for iPad licenses and Surface tablets.

Microsoft can probably find a niche with iPad owners who participate in BYOD programs. The corporate world might insist on having "real" Office if it's available, and that would lead to sales. Such iPad owners are in the minority so it won't set sales records of Office. That will also expose the deficiencies in Office for iPad if it's stripped down to fit.

The window of opportunity for Microsoft making a big push with Office for iPad has closed. The millions of iPad owners have gotten along just fine without Office and they've moved on. Tablet buyers needing Office have bought a Surface or other Windows tablet. Office for iPad is basically a market that doesn't exist, and that will become evident immediately if and when Office for iPad appears.

Topics: Mobility, iPad, Microsoft, Microsoft Surface

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102 comments
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  • Microsoft is actually in a very good position.

    Apple's iPad sales are good but, Market share is shrinking...

    Google's Android is growing but, they don't seem to care if they work the bugs out of one release before they move on to the next...

    I figure Android will bury the iPad in time and MS will get their shot when people get frustrated with the quality of the Google products. When Google dropped Gingerbread, the system was 100% stable and working but since that time the OS has had a few issues stick around for each new revision of the OS.
    slickjim
    • iPad isn't losing market share.

      Apple's iPad still outsells every other tablet on the market by a large margin. You have to combine the sales of every Android tablet on the market versus the iPad in order to get a number that makes it look like the iPad is losing ground. The fact is, every new model of the iPad sells a ton more than the previous model. Their sales are growing faster than any other single tablet. That's hardly a shrinking market share.

      Comparing OS market share between an OS with only one manufacturer selling two models versus an OS with dozens of manufacturers with countless models is grasping at a way to make yourself feel better about your device choice. In fact, the debates over which device is better are mostly pointless. Nearly everyone already has what they're going to continue to use. Nobody is going to be swayed by the opinions of others. It's just wasted energy. That's my opinion, anyway.

      As far as Microsoft Office goes, I agree with JK. Just like their tablets, they are too late to the game for most people to care.

      I do agree that Microsoft is in a good position, though. No matter what people buy, Microsoft makes money. For one thing, their patent portfolio is a cash machine. They make money on every Android device. They make money on every Apple device. They make money on every copy of Windows sold, whether it's 7, 8, or whatever. Even if Windows 8 and Surface continue to languish, Microsoft will remain in business indefinitely because they have so many wildly varied sources of income. In that respect, they're very smart.
      BillDem
      • iPad IS losing market share

        Get the facts straight. Now lower than 30% (http://www.itproportal.com/2013/11/01/ipad-takes-lowest-tablet-market-share-launch-samsung-surges/)

        We have seen this story before - Apple vs. MS (& PC Manufacturers) now Apple vs. Google (& Tablet Manufacturers & MS)

        The world is too big to go alone - even for Apple.
        holtfox
      • Why do you keep posting that

        Analytics’ latest research shows a significant increase in Android tablet shipments, while iOS continues to decline. iOS tablets account for 28.3% of Q2′s (2013) shipments, which is a significant drop from last year’s 47.2% marketshare in the same quarter.

        Meanwhile, Android has gone up to 67% from last year’s 51.4%. This accounts for 34.6 million Android tablets shipped during the quarter, which is a lot when you consider Apple’s 14.6 million shipments. Android was close to doubling it’s Q2 2012 shipments, which accounted for just 18.5 million shipments.

        http://phandroid.com/2013/07/29/tablet-sales-android-q2-2013/
        TurtleJ
        • Manufacturing costs and advertising expense matter

          Did you read his note? His assertion is that comparing iOS tablets to Android tablets is a useless exercise. He's right. The only practical significance to having market share is lower cost via economies of scale and learning effects. Those do not apply to operating systems because the marginal cost of making another unit is zero regardless of scale.

          The market share that matters here is not iOS vs Android, but Apple vs Samsung, in particular the Galaxy tabs vs the iPads (the two series have a lot of parts commonality within the product linee so scale economies apply). By that measure, he's wrong: Apple is losing share, Samsung is gaining, but Apple is still pretty far ahead.

          The guy who wrote the first comment who says that "Microsoft is actually in a very good position" is trying to fool people, principally himself. The "turtle and hare" story only works if the hare takes a nap. Here we have two hares running as fast as they can, trying to out-do each other. Neither could care less how far back the turtle is, and the turtle should not be dreaming of
          Robert Hahn
      • Google the term "market share"

        I think it will be an enlightening experience for you.
        blarelli
      • iPad isn't losing market share. Completly Incorrect

        Get this: you can increase sales and still lose market share if your sales increase is smaller than the increase in market growth. If the market grows 3x and your sales increase is x and your competitors sales increase is 2x then your market share declines.

        If tablet sales follow phone sales where Samsung increased sales this year by more than Apples total sales of phones, and there is no reason to think that wont happen, the outcome is not hard to see. Samsung crushed Apple in phone sales and id expect the same to occur in tablets.
        greywolf7
        • Re: and id expect the same to occur in tablets

          Samsung is spreading too thin.

          Their own advice is to not expect much new growth. Yet, fans continue to expect some miracle.
          It is not Apple whom Samsung might fight, except for headlines. Their real competition is in the Android camp, especially Amazon. Amazon, like Apple are very focused and refuses to spread thin -- thus, their strength.
          danbi
      • iPad is really the only way to go...

        Just bought an iPad Air WIFI w/64GB's of memory. Just retired my Kindle I got for free when I signed up with my cable provider. It was sort of ok. Pretty slow. The apps don't look quite as polished as their iPad equivalents.

        The new iPad is screaming fast, the selection and quality of the apps are amazing. Plus I have the iLife and iWork suite of software apps. Don't need MS Office. Keynote is superior to PowerPoint. Numbers and Pages are more than adequate for my needs. I'm sure that applies to the the vast majority of users as well. Microsoft is way too late to this party. They would have made millions of dollars had they released this three years ago, and they'd have lock-in, instead they have nothing. Another remarkable decision by their bald, chair throwing, simian like CEO. No surprise he has to go, I just wonder what took so long.

        I have looked at Surface tablets. I was confused, I didn't get it. Plus I know there only a very limited amount of apps for them. After playing with one for 10 minutes, it's no surprise why they're not moving very well. I forget the exact brand I was looking at, but between the quality and cheap plastic, it did not impress to say the least.

        The quality of the iPad Air is second to none. iPad has the best in apps, quality, quantity, and availability. Unless money is too tight for an iPad, there's no reason to consider alternatives. To me, going with anything else when you can afford an iPad is a mistake.
        gtdworak
        • I gave up on iPad and Apple

          If Apple spent less time removing things to make the iPad lighter and more time introducing new and compelling features then they would be the Apple of the Jobs era. Unfortunately my patience has grown thin and I have given up on them. No real innovations since the original iPad. It is basically the same iPad as the original, except faster and lighter.

          No wireless charging, no NFC, no Miracast, no Keyboard covers, no digitzer stylus, no USB port, no sd card slot for memory expansion, no HDMI for extended monitor support, limited compatibility with printers, no support for Adobe Flash, closed system locking out decent browsers, no accessible file system, poor cloud support with iCloud, and iWorks and iLife, are you kidding me?

          I woke up. It is only a matter of time before people wake up and realize that Apple hasn't delivered any new innovations since Jobs introduced the original iPad and yet they are still demanding hi dollar values for a slipping product line.

          Thinner is nice, but not nice enough. Get real.
          gomigomijunk
          • And my iPad does not even make coffee

            Not to mention, anything else. Apparently, the only reason I purchased one is I am an Apple fan. What else could there be?

            Oh, and it is simply awful without Flash, accessible file system, etc goodies that really are useful in tablets. I can't even install more memory in the thing!
            danbi
          • Right

            Apple told me that I don't need any of those features and I believed them because why would they mislead me?
            gomigomijunk
        • What planet are you from?

          I have been using both Surface RT and Pro for many months now and they are both high-quality devices whose utility becomes more evident the more I use them. And you are mistaken about the plastic - magnesium and glass are not plastic.

          Your argument seems to stem more from emotion than logic. You declare iPads great because you like them. That is fine for you, but don't expect others to follow your lead without providing good reasons. Surface tablets are designed for productivity and with MS Office they are very productive. Other office products are nice, but they are not enough, nor are they compatible in a form that preserves document format faithfully. I cannot imagine a program that could handle complex animations, graphics, and multimedia as well as PowerPoint. I do extensive work with graphics and complex animations in PowerPoint and I do not want to miss out on that capability. If keynote does this better I want to see it in action.

          iPads are designed for entertainment and by most accounts they do that well. Sure you can have fun with a Surface tablet, but that was not the main design goal. You may even be productive with an iPad, but again that was not the main design goal. Just because Windows 8 and Surface tablets do not conform to your definition of what a tablet should be does not alter their inherit usefulness in any way to those that need that capability.

          I see Windows tablets as the natural replacement for laptops and desktop PCs. Now that may not sound attractive to those who love their iPads, but there are over a billion Windows PC users out there who will have to replace their systems over the next few years. Will they opt for both a laptop and a tablet? My guess is that a great many will say no to purchasing both a laptop and a tablet, especially as they have access to Surface and other Windows tablets and see how useful they are. Who needs to spend twice the money and carry twice as much kit as needed?

          I can wirelessly connect my Surface Pro to my TV, a video projector, and even a second monitor. I can also attach a keyboard and mouse wirelessly. There is nothing I need a PC to do that a Surface Pro cannot do. It truly is a laptop replacement. Yet, when I am on the run I can have a productive tablet device as well.
          Curtis Quick
          • Billion PC users...

            Yes, there are a billion PC users out there but 80% of them use it for browsing, email, Facebook, YouTube... not for heavy duty computing. For their needs, iPad is the ideal device as they are mainly content consumers...
            prof123
          • Even email is a pain on a tablet...

            ..for anything more than a three-sentence email, a keyboard is still needed. It is usually evident within the first three words when someone has sent an email using a phone or a tablet.
            daftkey
        • iPad Air is like

          playing Angry Birds in HD and the game doesn't go beyond level 3.
          Android is like having all the levels.
          Windows tablet is like having the developer edition with level editor.
          warboat
      • MS blew it

        This article is dead on. I don't know a single person that has an iOS device that is missing MS Office apps.

        The built in Preview in iOS works for me when I need to open a MS Office document. If I wanted more then iWorks or Quickoffice would be my first choices.

        MS BLEW it. There are Millions upon millions of iOS users who have learned to live with out Office. The seed had been planted.
        paebin2s
        • I've said the same thing

          The iPad has been around for more than four years and users have been able to make fine use of iPads without Office for all of that time. There are plenty of alternatives. Those alternatives may not be perfect, but they are generally good enough. MS decided not to support iPad users and in the process it has lost billions. MS is still trying to push its own 3rd rate product, the Surface, for those who want Office. No thanks!
          1,2,3
        • Slow turning a mega ship.

          Microsoft have consistently been late in reacting to whats hot in the market. The problem is they want to be all things to all people and businesses which leads to conflict both internally and externally. They are a company that license their OS to "parners", and competes with these same "partners" in the market with the Surface.

          They are a software company (their roots) yet are afraid to sell their popular software to the current hot selling device/PC. Want to give their hardware a shot in the market. Now they are a so called device and service company yet don't have any successful device in the market to show for it.

          Company needs to stick to what it knows best and stop trying to be all things to everyone. Apple knows who they are as a company. Goole knows who they are, that's why they are in the position they're in. Amazon knows who they are as a com
          dave95.
      • shorthand

        When most people write 'Android tablets' they tend to mean ALL Android tablets together. If they mean white Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8", they'll usually make that clear.

        More iPads may sell than any other tablet, and new models may outsell older models, but iPad % market share of all tablets whether they run iOs, Android, Windows Whatever, webOS, BlackberryOS or anything else is declining because all Android tablets together are selling more than all iPads together.

        Does that matter? Not really. iPads, Android and Windows tablets are no more interchangeable than Macs, PCs and vintage Amigas.
        hrlngrv