What Microsoft Office means to iOS users

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.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

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.

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