What Microsoft Office means to iOS users

What Microsoft Office means to iOS users

Summary: In a "I'm not really surprised by this" moment, Microsoft's Office for iOS users is more than a ploy, it's a statement.


Microsoft Office and Apple are like that kid from Charlie Brown and his blanket: They're inseparable. Microsoft Office was first released for the Mac and the two have been seen out in public together ever since. Wherever you see a Mac, you also see an installation of Microsoft Office. It only makes sense that Microsoft would offer its flagship office suite for iOS devices. There's been an outcry for it for more than two years now. So, for what some analysts see as a ploy, I see as "business as usual."

I know that negativity sells better than straight up analysis but I can't sell something that I don't have. Microsoft is a software company. They make software. Microsoft Office is the world's leading and most used office suite. It is the standard office suite. It's only logical that Microsoft would make the suite available to iOS users. In fact, I'm a little taken aback that they didn't offer it sooner--as in maybe two years ago.

The problem with Microsoft creating an Office suite for iOS users isn't that they're doing it, it's that they're doing it now.

You see, there's a really cool Microsoft Office-compatible suite called QuickOffice--now owned by Google (as of June 5, 2012). I guess Google Docs didn't really take off as planned. But that's another story.

QuickOffice made it onto my iPad as soon as I found it. I paid a cool $10 (OK, $9.99--seriously, is that really a big enough difference to argue about?) and I've enjoyed using it. I'm shocked that Microsoft didn't contest the creation of such a product but I guess they felt it wasn't really worth the effort. I wish Microsoft had delivered on an iOS version before I plunked down my $10 for a pseudo Microsoft Office suite. I would much prefer to have Microsoft's real version, frankly.

I paid what I felt like was a premium price for QuickOffice because there was no official Microsoft-branded version available.

In fact, I'll likely delete QuickOffice once Microsoft debuts their version and purchase it. Why bother with "compatible," when I can have the real thing.

It's kind of like purchasing camera lenses that are "compatible" with your camera. Sure, you can get an off brand lens for about one-third of the price of a Canon lens but you won't be as happy. Same goes for Microsoft products.

I mean, didn't we learn this back in the 1980s with IBM-compatibles? White boxes were half or less than the price of an actual IBM system but did they work as well? No, not in my experience, it didn't. These days I'm not sure it matters so much but it sure did then before computing hardware became commodity-grade.

In my not-so-humble opinion, you never get fired for buying the actual brand. It's more than a name; it's a legacy; it's a 'we didn't just wake up today and decide we're in business X.' That's why I'm glad Apple never approved any clone systems. 100% Apple compatible wouldn't be Apple. Just like Microsoft-compatible isn't Microsoft.

I'm not saying that companies like QuickOffice shouldn't go into business with an office suite. Quite the opposite, they should. But it should be their own brand with an option for Microsoft compatibility. Kind of like OpenOffice.org/LibreOffice/StarOffice/whatever the latest name is today. 

What a Microsoft Office version means for iOS users is a real version of Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office. You know, the one that everyone uses because it's the best one available.

And, yes, if you know anything about me, I've spent a lot of time with the OpenOffice.org suite. The word processor is pretty good. The spreadsheet is decent. The other bits are just there for surface compatibility or work-alike/look alike appearances. I've used both OpenOffice.org and all of its derivatives and I've always used Microsoft Office for real work.

Kind of a funny side story here. When I owned my own computer consulting company, I did some subcontracting with another company and the "CIO" at that company converted everyone to OpenOffice.org. It was his demise. I didn't have anything to do with it. Honestly. I was OK with his decision but no one else was.

 Funny side story #2: I think all of the law firms I used to support finally gave up on WordPerfect Office too in favor of Microsoft Office. They were the same firms that still had old SCO UNIX systems running, when I came in and converted them to modern Windows desktops, Windows Servers and Microsoft Office. A lot of them kept WordPerfect around to open old docs and to use whatever legal stuff that came with the legal version of WordPerfect but those dinosaurs are probably extinct now too. Good riddance.

Sorry, I digressed.

My point is this: Microsoft has the standard product. It's so standard that we don't even really have to say "Microsoft" Office anymore. We just say, "Office." It's that standard.

Microsoft Office on iOS? Snore.

If Office on iOS is a surprise to you, then you're probably reading this on an XT Turbo vintage 1986. I hope it's not an IBM-compatible. Spend the extra $5 and get the IBM one.

What do you think of the "big" leaked secret that Microsoft is going to release an Office for iOS? Good news? Old news? No news? Talk back and let me know.

Topics: Apple, Microsoft, Bring Your Own Device


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • Evolve or die ...

    It is simple, MS must evolve or die. They may be the top dog on the desktop market .... but they are not even on the competition on the mobile market.

    Windows is no longer a cash cow. People are now open to using other operating systems. So the only way they can survive is by milking the only productive cow they have: Office

    And to milk that cow, they must now support other platforms. And iOS is the most logical platform to start. Specially when iOS device owners are more likely to purchase an Office app, than Android users (who would prefer to download a pirated app full of malware than pay one miserable dollar for it).
    • "And iOS is the most logical platform to start.

      True. Because the iPad, especially, and iPhone are WAY ahead of Android-based tablets and smartphones in the enterprise. As an example, Barclay's recently ordered 8500 iPads.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Really!

        I'm gonna make sure I don't have any stock in Barclay's. What a waste of money!
        • RE: Really!

          Too late. You shoulda sold it before 2008:

          Rabid Howler Monkey
        • Really?!?!?!?

          MCTronix, don't act like a dumb ass. iPad has it all over all other tablet devices. So, Microsoft better get moving quick with offering MS Office for the iPad, iPhone, etc. If not then they will get left behind and become a company like Kmart - once the premium discount superstore, but getting overrun by a company that no one thought would survive, Walmart.
          • who gets left behind

            I hear a sense of entitlement with ipad users.
            Like MS needs them to survive. This is rubbish.
            If MS releases Office for iOS, what it will do is damage the premium brand that is MS Office. Customers pay a premium for MS Office on desktop so that they have a HIGH standard. MS Office for iOS will be a pitiful subset that the lowest common denominator for Office files will become iOS Office. Just like web designers now stoop down to the lowest common denominator of Safari iPad when making websites, Office files created on desktops will need to be DUMBED DOWN so that ipad Office will be able to use it. Instead of having a DDE linked excel file embedded in a word file which you could expect any current Office desktop suite to work with, you will need to convert it to a static table. Office on iOS won't achieve the compatibility that users are after. It is impossible to have the feature set with iOS sandboxing and lack of file system and sharing between apps. It would be like expecting plugins, flash, and full Java compatibility in iOS Safari.
            Then there is the question of the appstore model. MS won't be keen to cannabalise Office to a price which mobile users are used to paying for apps. It will just trash the brand and destroy the Office cashcow. The appstore model also does not help developers with a paid update scheme. buy once, update forever is the norm - this will cripple app development. All you see these days is more and more devs updating their apps to include ads because of the pay once model. Office and the ongoing updates is one of Microsoft's most profitable divisions, and to stoop to pay once models will guarantee stagnation of the product as revenue stream dwindles.
            If MS makes Officelite for iOS, it will leave everyone behind including themselves. there is no point or profit in being a premium brand with a cheap product.
          • Glad I looked to see who the author was

            before I wasted my time reading your rant.
      • Barclay's recently ordered

        True, but Barclay's has a huge investment in Apple. Does anyone really think they'd buy from a competitor?
        • If it made better financial sense

          of course they would.
    • What are you talking about?

      "Windows is no longer a cash cow?" Are you serious? Windows rakes in billions every year for Microsoft. And so does Office. And so does Xbox. And so does their server business.

      As for the mobile market... Windows Phone is gaining traction (sales are up 300-400% over last year). Microsoft is increasing production of the Surface tablets and expanding availability. Furthermore, while availability of Windows 8 tablets and hybrids is still limited, demand is not. These hybrid (and mobile) devices are flying off the shelves as fast as they're put on display.

      Sorry, but there's just a lot of "wishful thinking" about Microsoft's demise, and most of it is based on rumors and fanboy spin.

      Microsoft IS a player in mobile, and a year from now, you will realize how formidable a player it is.
      • 300-400%

        Sales of Windows phones last year 10. Sales of Windows phones this year 50. Yep, 400%. They are going to take over the world any millennia now.
        • Do you have any proof that last year the sales are just 10 devices of WP

          and this year only 50 of them? If not you are nothing but a w* character.
          Ram U
          • Oh please!

            First, he was not offering real numbers, just making a rhetorical point. Second, it is an easily researchable item that WP has not sold as per MS's expectations. Which were low to begin with.
      • What a load of bull

        DO yourself a favour, and check your facts before you post.
        Windows itself is often a loss leader. For many years the Windows division lost money, and it's sole reason for existence was to push Office. They have been marginally profitable recently, but over the long haul, it is year to year, hit or miss.
        XBOX only became marginally profitable in the past year. Prior to that it was hemorrhaging money.
        Please cite any evidence that WP is gaining traction. A 400% increase when your product is less than two years old is meaningless math. Hell, after you sell your first unit, why not claim your sales percentage has increase infinitely?
        Now to your final piece of bull. I don't know where you are getting you facts (well, I do, but we'll leave comments about your anatomy alone for the time being) but MS has just cut back orders for the Surface from the OEM due to poor sales projections, so, no, they have NOT increased production. What, you thought you could just make stuff up and get away with it?
        All surveys show that demand for Surface is tepid at best. far below MS's expectation. They are NOT "flying off the shelves" by any stretch of the imagination!
        Talk about "wishful thinking"!
        Besides, you used the word "fanboy", so instant fail.
        • no, you load-o-bull

          " Windows itself is often a loss leader. For many years the Windows division lost money, and it's sole reason for existence was to push Office. They have been marginally profitable recently, but over the long haul, it is year to year, hit or miss."

          that's just pure crap. MS rose on the back of Windows. To be a loss leader, each unit would cost them more than what they sold it for. Clearly, this is not the case.
          The more units of windows sold, the more they made, not less, irrespective of Office sales.
          MS did not make the bulk of its money on Office alone.
          • Yes

            "To be a loss leader, each unit would cost them more than what they sold it for."
            Congratulations on being able to restate the definition of terms.

            "Clearly, this is not the case."
            And this is clear why, exactly? Certainly not from any data you have posted.

            "The more units of windows sold, the more they made, not less, irrespective of Office sales."
            And congrats on basic math. However, what you neglect is the cost of development and production and distribution. If they exceed the amount made on units sold, then they ARE LOSING MONEY. They continue to lose money even if they sell more units. Only after the number of units exceeds a certain amount do they actually make a profit. Guess what? Many times, it didn't. In fact, in general the business division makes a far greater percentage of MS's profits than the Windows division.
            A perfect recent example is their online services division, which this year alone lost over 5 BILLION dollars.

            In short, as usual, you just have NO idea what you are talking about, and just post from your beliefs instead of from actual information.
      • Wishful thinking seems to be getting around

        A good portion of your comments are nothing more than wishful thinking coming from an MS fanboy so what's your point. MS isn't going to come crashing down or disappear at least anytime soon but things are not a rosy for them as you would like to believe.
    • Sure, Office in iOS is the way to go...

      Anyone who needs to do real work in Office will od it in at least a half decent notebook. Office in iPad/tables is as good as Windows 8 in a tablet. They just made it cause they can, and will make some $ in the process.
    • not really

      This is MS and they are still a software company...no evolution required. They want to sell office on ios, but don't think Apple deserves a 30% stake. I agree with MS here. The native app store design works well for small apps, but when you're talking about a robust program like Office it makes no sense at all. The x86 model is still the best for devs. You don't have to pay someone to release a program, you market, release and reap the rewards. If there's anything wrong here its the lockdown on native app stores!
      • What a load of your typical misinformed crap.

        First, if you think no one needs to be paid to release a program, you CLEARLY don't do that for a living. Even if you self-market, you have to keep and maintain the server that houses the bits. You also have to pay to advertise and actually market the device. Sure you can just try to rely on word of mouth, but you'll get what you pay for. In this case, more than likely, nothing.
        This costs money, whether that money goes to Apple or someone else.
        Nor does it make any logical difference what size the app is. It either works or it doesn't. Perhaps you intended to say cost? Because there you might have a point. But that is not what you said. But even with costlier programs, there are ways around the app store cost structure. Especially if you are Microsoft.
        But hey, no need to look at iOS, let's look at MS's own history here. First, if you claim Apple's 70/30 split is indefensible, please detail MS's own app store model, and defend THEIR split.
        Or better yet, explain the market on the older Windows Mobile, where the percentage split was ever WORSE!!!