Office for the iPad: It's all about the enterprise

Office for the iPad: It's all about the enterprise

Summary: The rumor that Microsoft is soon to roll out Office for the iPad is being met with the question of why the company would negate the advantage Windows has with Office. The answer may be the iPad's entry into the enterprise.

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TOPICS: Mobility, iPad, Tablets
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(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Microsoft Office for the iPad has been featured in rumors for a while. We've heard it's coming, then that it's not, and recently that it is indeed coming, and soon. I tend to believe it is, especially given the report from ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley. Her information is usually spot on, and I'll bet it is accurate.

Some have wondered why Microsoft would release Office for the iPad, since it's a selling point for Windows tablets. Why negate its advantage over the iPad by releasing Office? I believe the answer is simple: it's all about the enterprise.

See related: Where are Microsoft's next versions of Office for Windows and Mac?Microsoft officially rebrands Office Web Apps as 'Office Online' | Microsoft Office on iPad: It's alive and coming sooner than most think

There's no denying that big companies have been making iPads available to employees wanting to participate in the tablet craze. Companies have conducted test programs to see how well the iPad will work for workers, and by and large they have worked just fine.

A contact at ExxonMobile, who must remain anonymous, said the company did that a while back. The test worked well and the company has been making iPads available to those who want to use them for work. According to this insider, the company has deployed quite a few.

I'll bet ExxonMobile is not the only large enterprise that's deployed lots of iPads. If so, like ExxonMobile they won't be used exclusively. My contact says ExxonMobile is trying to get employees to choose Surface tablets over the iPad. Employees tend to like the iPad option, and that's not likely to change.

With the threat of the iPad invading the enterprise, it makes perfect sense for Microsoft to get Office on them. Office is a favorite solution for the workplace, and if Office for the iPad was available I'll bet companies would make sure it's on most of the tablets.

Microsoft grew to the huge company it is today due to Bill Gates' vision long ago to get Microsoft's software on every desk. That extends to the iPad today. If the iPad is coming into the enterprise, why not have Microsoft software on every one?

No question that some consumers will buy Office for the iPad, but getting the enterprise to pick it up is more important. Having Office on the iPad in the workplace is what Microsoft needs, lest corporations discover they can get by without Office. That would be catastrophic for the folks in Redmond.

Topics: Mobility, iPad, Tablets

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58 comments
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  • If you can't beat them, join them?

    Sadly, I think this is an admission by Microsoft that they're not very confident they can win the mobile OS wars. It's disappointing for those of us who are fans of Windows Phone & Surface... but it may just be reality.
    cybersaurusrex
    • Wait. Are you saying that Office

      Only exists to get people to buy Windows? I thought MS was a software company and not just an operating system vendor.
      baggins_z
      • Make the OS free & charge a premium for Office...

        A lot of us think Microsoft should license Windows RT/Phone OS for free... so OEMs can lower the prices of their devices to compete with Android/Chrome. But then charge a premium for Office... because consumers still seem willing to shell out one to two hundred dollars for it.

        Also, I just read an article that says Microsoft is lowering the price it charges for Windows OS to OEMS--from $50 to $15--for sub-$250 devices. That's a good strategy, and one they should've used from the beginning of the launch of Windows 8.

        Will it still work? Maybe. We'll know in about a year or two. I still think Windows tablets & hybrids are the best value. Microsoft just has to learn how to sell it. They've definitely gotten better over the past year.
        cybersaurusrex
        • Why?

          With lower-priced devices comes more sales. With more sales comes more apps. With more apps comes more momentum and more mindshare (from app developers).

          In other words, even though MS will be losing revenue from lowering the price of Windows, they'll eventually make it up from app sales... assuming that they start gaining real market share in the mobile space.
          cybersaurusrex
    • They cannot expect to rely on selling a "shrink wrapped" OS anymore.

      Its "good" (if you like microsoft) that they seem to be realizing that the focus needs to be on cross platform applications and services. And forget devices too. Forcing a touch interface on a work PC only to try to sell phones is seriously backfiring.
      drwong
    • IMHO

      I think that full Windows tablets are really set to be a growth segment. It all has to do with the hardware technology catching up to the software and W8 getting better with 8.1, soon Update 1 and next year with W9. Most people who have tried, say, a Dell Venue Pro 8 really like them and are amazed that its a full PC.

      These tablets will get thinner and lighter and with x64 Baytrail, more powerful.
      Rann Xeroxx
      • more powerful for what

        I don't want to be crunching spreadsheets or doing professional video editing, software development, 3D modelling, etc on a touchscreen tablet no matter how "powerful".
        Why does windows have to be stuck on everything. Its designed for large screen, computers with keyboard and mouse. I like android but I certainly don't think it should be put on desktop PCs, for example.
        drwong
  • Penny wise, poud foolish

    "With the threat of the iPad invading the enterprise, it makes perfect sense for Microsoft to get Office on them. Office is a favorite solution for the workplace, and if Office for the iPad was available I'll bet companies would make sure it's on most of the tablets.

    Microsoft grew to the huge company it is today due to Bill Gates' vision long ago to get Microsoft's software on every desk. That extends to the iPad today. If the iPad is coming into the enterprise, why not have Microsoft software on every one?"

    Yep. This makes perfect sense. Given the threat of the iPad encroaching on its turf, MS should help its competition gain a foothold, and displace it in the enterprise. Seriously, who comes up with this reasoning? Also, MS' vision was to have the Windows platform software everywhere. Why is everyone encouraging MS to do this penny wise, pound foolish approach to software development, where it helps its rivals' platforms displace its own, to its long term detriment?
    P. Douglas
    • Office's main franchise is Office, followed by Servers + Tools,NOT Windows

      Letting alternative tools for managing documents get a foothold in their territory is definitely NOT in their interests. You can get your butt that all the aggressive Google Apps sales people calling businesses (and they've called me) are promoting the fact that they offer very iPad compatible services, with QuickOffice, Keep and Drive.

      Microsoft needs to preserve its Office and Servers and Tools businesses first - each of these is bigger than the Windows client business, and they are smart to do it. Nobody is going to forgo an iPad just because of Office, so better to make a buck and get it into iPads as well.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • Darned edit button

        Microsoft's main franchise, not Office's.
        Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • Thanks for the haters' advice

        Here is a radical idea! Why doesn't MS use its various platforms to reinforce each other, rather than letting each go their own way, and trample one another? Let me see, who does this? Apple? Does Apple have iTunes on Android or Windows 8? No. Does Apple have its productivity suite on Android or Windows 8? No. Does Apple have its various differentiating software on newer rival platforms? No.

        It is haters who would love MS to play its various platforms against one another, since this would allow rivals to pick them off one at a time, knowing MS would not back each of them up, with the its own collective resources. The way for MS to tackle the competition in the Office space, is to head them off with new innovative technology like Metro Office, which brings brand new touch based document consumption and production experiences, which blow the competition out of the water. The way for MS to NOT tackle the competition in the Office space, is to support its competitors' platforms, at the cost of its own.
        P. Douglas
        • There's a big difference between Hater and Realist.

          I think a hater would say "Who cares? Office is dead", and with the penetration of iOS in the enterprise without it one could make a good argument that it is. A realist says, "Office is still an important feature in the enterprise, and a Office license sale is a license sale even if doesn't include a Windows license."

          I think the guys in Redmond would love to be able to "Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish" the iPad, and this may be their extend step. Personally, I don't think Microsoft "even have that kind of muscle anymore."
          matthew_maurice
          • You are wrong

            Nope. Haters tend to be more insidious than that, offering advice which seems to be sound, but which ultimately leads MS down a destructive path.

            As I suggested, the best path for MS to take, is to introduce Metro Office full (vs. lite) apps, which bring brand new touch based document consumption and production experiences, which blow the competition out of the water. This will drive adoption of Windows 8 in the enterprise, bolster the sales of Windows touch PCs, particularly higher end PCs, and also drive up Office's revenues. In the above situation, both of MS' Windows and Office platforms win, and MS' rivals' platorms lose. This is opposed to the widespread suggestion of MS putting Office on the iPad early, which would lead to Office and MS' rivals' platforms winning, and MS' Windows platform and MS overall losing - as Windows sales would be undermined, and MS would be dismantling the moat that surrounds Windows, which has made MS' cash cow untouchable over decades.

            A major reason Windows is not doing so well in the consumer market, is because MS lost focus of making its Windows client platform a priority in the consumer market, when it placed a lot of resources on the web, a rival platform, undermining the relevance of Windows. MS should have instead reinvented Windows in ways that competed with the web, and come out first with cloud connected apps and an app store, which brought better user experiences, better services monetization for developers and service providers, etc.. MS cannot continue to make the same mistake it did with the web, or its cash cow will fade away, much to the joy of its rivals and haters.
            P. Douglas
          • It's cash cow is Office, as I said earlier

            and kneecapping Office is not a road to its flourishing. Office hasn't been a Windows-only play in a long time. It is easily the strongest online Office play, with full featured web editors that compare nicely with others' binary offerings. It has an amazing corollary of online services like SharePoint. And it is available on a number of mobile platforms (like Android, iOS, and WP8.)

            Clearly, they intend to bring it everywhere. So why take a very popular niche, one whose phone sister they've given Office, and exclude it? How is Microsoft's riskiest play in years - to take Office, its biggest business, online - helped by that?

            Strikes me the only people giving Microsoft deadly advice are the ones who think every service it offers other than the Windows client should get kneecapped. That hurts only Microsoft, who are trying to make Azure and Office services available to everyone everywhere.
            Mac_PC_FenceSitter
          • The vast majority of Office revenue comes from Windows users

            The overwhelming majority of Office's revenues are centered around Office on Windows. Office online (web Office) does not make MS any money per se, it more deflects threats from Google and other rivals, and provides convenience for users of Office on Windows - allowing these valuable users to view Office documents on other platforms, and work with them in limited ways. The same is true for Office on other non-Windows platforms such as the iPhone, Android phones, and Windows Phone. As long as Office on the iPad does essentially the same as it does on other non-Windows platforms, then MS should do well. But Office for the iPad should not be a distraction from the introduction of full Metro Office on Windows 8, as it could lessen the impact of Metro Office when it is introduced.
            P. Douglas
          • It shouldn't be a distraction

            They have an Objective C Apple focused team in Mountain View.... might as well have them working on it, rather than idling. They would not be the ones producing a Metro version.
            Mac_PC_FenceSitter
        • And for the record.

          "t is haters who would love MS to play its various platforms against one another, since this would allow rivals to pick them off one at a time, knowing MS would not back each of them up, with the its own collective resources."

          Microsoft ITSELF has been playing it's various platforms against themselves FOR YEARS. Anyone remember "Project Pink" and the great J Allard-Andy Lees Civil War?
          matthew_maurice
        • Don't you think they've already considered this?

          The fact that Microsoft would even consider making Office for the iPad very strongly suggests that they have carefully weighed the pros and cons of doing this, and that they have decided that money is money.

          The simple fact is that in mobile, they aren't the top dog. They can't throw their weight around the same way they could on the desktop (even if they didn't fear the threat of legal reprisal if they were to attempt such a throw). I think that they are remembering the words of Bill's old friend Steve Jobs, but in reverse: Apple does not need to lose in order for Microsoft to win.

          Ultimately, I imagine there aren't that many people who are considering leaving the iPad because it doesn't have Office, or who would consider getting an iPad if only it had Office. People who want iPads are going to get them regardless, and people who have them aren't likely to jump ship anytime soon, so what's the harm in making some money off the competition?
          Third of Five
        • Actually iTunes is on Windows 8

          Apple doesn't code two different versions of it, however.

          But that has nothing to do with anything. Apple is almost solely a maker of hardware products. They live and breathe hardware.

          Despite, the mission statement of Devices and Services, Microsoft is really all about Services. Office 365 is a flagship service, designed to conquer online document processing, paid cloud storage, cloud collaboration, and cloud content management.

          Why would they kneecap themselves? No advantage is given any of Microsoft's still nascent hardware business by paid subscriptions being unavailable on an iPad. Only disadvantage is given - to Microsoft's largest business.

          Understand that this was NEVER going to happen for any great length of time.
          Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • It's too late for Microsoft

      iPad has won the enterprise tablet space. The only question remaining is if Microsoft will be able to sell iPad apps.
      Retterdyne