It’s Far Too Late for MS Office on iPad

| Particle Debris

Microsoft has had a version of MS Office ready for the iPad for some time now. What's held it up has been the attempt to entice business users over to the Surface tablets instead.

Many customers, observers and even camps internal to Microsoft have lobbied for the opportunity to earn billions ($2.5B by one estimate) by having MS Office on the iPad. However, that would be caving to the popularity of the iPad and admitting defeat.

A fascinating article at Reuters explores the nuances of this decision, now in the hands of the new Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella. "Microsoft poised to fight back as iPad generation shuns Office."

I think it would have been smart to release MS Office years ago because the foundations of how we use the iPad hadn't been fully defined. In time, however, Apple has had the opportunity to further clarify the essence of the modern tablet and developers, living within those guidelines, have developed corresponding apps that conform to the tablet experience.

Over at Microsoft, the thinking was that by restricting MS Office to Windows, the company could entice tablet customers to buy the Surface instead. That strategy failed because users were more interested in the tablet life and the solutions for complexity and security offered by the iPad than they were by MS Office. PCs still exist, after all, for that kind of work.

As the Reuters authors point out, a host of solutions have been developed and virtual standards, like EverNote, defined for the iPad. We went right and Microsoft went into left field in the post-PC era.

I think Mr. Nadella will decide to release MS Office for the iPad, and it will be heralded as a bold move into mobility. Sales will be brisk, thanks to pent up demand. But in the months after release, customers will slowly realize that life with MS Office on the iPad isn't the kind of life they want to live. Other solutions are less expensive, easier to use, and fit better into the quintessential nature of the iPad. MS Office will prove to be a fish out of water for the majority of users who might dabble with it.

Enthusiasm will fade. Tech articles will then shift to tutoring readers how they can achieve all that they need to without the expense and complexity of MS Office.

Microsoft's delay has been fatal, and there's no Hail Mary play here. MS Office is a product that was tuned to a high level of productivity and complexity on desktop and notebooks, PCs and Mac, but it has no fundamental future on a modern tablet like the iPad.

The sooner Microsoft gets into its own unique brand of mobility solutions, the better things will go.


The week's tech news debris is on page 2 where, for the first time ever, I disagree with Jean-Louis Gassée.

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You’re right - Office for iOS is too late. Steve B spent all his time trying to support and solidify the Windows/Office “standard” and failed to notice that lots of other people were getting on a different train.

Microsoft was living in its own world - pleasant, comfortable and with lots of cash rolling in - and ignoring the reality outside. It did not reinvent itself in the way that Apple did and so it is destined to become merely a major player in the market rather than a market leader. You’d think that MS executives would have taken notice of what happened to IBM since it was, after all, IBM’s role that MS took. But they did not and now they’re consigned to a similar fate.


They still make Office? I left that behind over twenty years ago.


I am very interested to see what Office-for-iOS is like. Not enough to pay a lot of money, but very interested just the same.

Office has become very feature-rich over the years - some might say “bloated” - with an almost overwhelming range of features. It’s tailored for a keyboard+mouse interface and I wonder how MS will break out of that. Office for Surface might give some clues but I have not had an opportunity to see that (or even a Surface). Of course, most of them came with the keyboard/cover and perhaps that was required for Office ??

The MS designers and developers have a difficult task. They’re going to upset either the need-all-the-features people or the keep-it-simple-and-usable ones. Or both. I don’t envy them the task.


Perhaps the title should read simply, “It’s far too late for MS…”


I wish they would have ported MS Access over to the Mac.  I do like Access but now it is pretty limiting.  Need to look into Filemaker - it looks like the interface to the iPad for the front-end is pretty slick.

Bob Benedetti

MS has managed to make Office irrelevant in the Tablet space.
1) It has failed to develop a version of Office that us useable on it’s own Surface tablets. Office on a Windows tablet is absolutely finger unfriendly and practically unusable without a keyboard and pointing device.
2) The failure to release a version for iPad when it could have done MS some good and brought revenue. Now the only way most will use Office on an iPad is if it is free…not exactly the moneymaker MS hoped for.


I don’t get this: “ Apple’s Maps app was a laughing stock two years ago.”

I followed the criticism and support for Apple’s Maps app and it seemed overblown mostly by Apple critics. Google’s maps app had a lot of problems too, including melting images and accuracy. Seems six of one, half a dozen, etc.
Apple generally eventually gets it right and usually superior to others or dumps it, or rests the little failure for a later incarnation.


I see that MS now will sell a home-use version of Office 365 for $70 per year. For one desktop device plus one tablet. Desktop + laptop requires TWO licenses.

Microsoft STILL does not understand the “family scenario”. Dumb dumb dumb.


I’m not a huge Office fan, but I really don’t like Pages.  Numbers is ok, Keynote is OK, but I just don’t like Pages.

If they get Word right on iOS I just might be tempted.

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