Office for the iPad — Too Late?



aNewDomain.net – The big news this weekend is that Microsoft finally released Office for the iPad. But the iPad is four years old so this announcement is long overdue. Preliminary reviews say Microsoft has done a good job on the touch user interface, but isn’t that the last war?

The Next War is Not Over the Tablet or Phone, but Over the Browser

Don’t take my word for it. In a 1997 Time interview (by Walter Isaacson) Bill Gates said:

Any operating system without a browser is going to be f***** out of business. Should we improve our product, or go out of business?”

In 1998 he sent a memo to Microsoft executives saying:

One thing we have got to change in our strategy — allowing Office documents to be rendered very well by other peoples’ browsers is one of the most destructive things we could do to the company…This is a case where Office has to avoid doing something to destroy Windows.”

I have been using a Chromebook for a week, and I use Google Docs quite a bit. While I like both the Chromebook and Google Docs, I am not ready to give up Windows. But, I bet there are a lot of folks who would abandon Windows if they could run Office in a browser.

What would have happened if Microsoft had released Office for the iPad, say, two years ago? It would have helped iPad sales and hurt Windows tablets for sure. But Windows tablets are not doing well regardless, and Microsoft and Office would have strengthened their dominant position with professional and enterprise users. Maybe they should have re-branded themselves as the “software and services company” instead of “devices and services.”

Now let’s look forward, say, five years. I will have a gigabit Internet connection (well, not if Time Warner has its way), and my Chromebook will be very fast. Will I want to use Office 365 and OneDrive or Google Docs 2019 and Google Drive? Which one will my university or an enterprise settle on?

I am not sure and neither are the folks at Google and Microsoft — and that is good news for us as consumers and citizens.

For aNewDomain.net, I’m Larry Press.

Based in Los Angeles, Larry Press is a founding senior editor covering tech here ataNewDomain.net. He’s also a professor of information systems at California State University at Dominguez Hills. Check his Google+ profile — he’s at +Larry Press — or email him at Larry@aNewDomain.net.

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  • Ant Pruitt

    I don’t think it’s too late. So many iPads in the enterprise today. Why not get what they’ve been wanting for looking at office files. Unless they’re happy with their current office option.

    -RAP, II

    • lpress

      I hope for MS sake that a lot of folks go for it, but, if I were MS, I would be looking at the browser. It will be good for us consumers as MS and Google battle for productivity apps in the cloud. MS has the lead in having mature apps (dating back to Xerox PARC in the 1970s) and a strong foothold in the enterprise, but Google has the lead on the Internet with Google Fiber, Drive/Docs and the Chromebook.

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