Microsoft facing fork in the road regarding Office for iOS

Tami Reller, Microsoft’s chief of marketing, spoke at a Goldman Sachs tech conference yesterday. She was asked about bringing Office to other mobile platforms. Last October, Steve Ballmer committed to bringing Office to iPad. Seems like Reller might be hedging on that commitment.

“As we step back and say, these core applications, these core brands that are so important to enterprise customers and consumers, how do we make sure that we’re thoughtful about what we’re doing on the Windows platform, as well as cognizant of the fact that there’s other devices in their lives.”

“So you’ll see us be thoughtful about how and when we bring what applications to what platforms.”

Microsoft is facing a difficult decision. On the one hand, they can keep Office as Windows-only, hoping to build a locked in ecology that will force consumers to buy Windows tablets and phones if they want Windows.

On the flip side, there’s a very real danger that that strategy will erode the Windows market if people do not buy into the Windows mobile offerings.

An interesting article. Microsoft is in a difficult position.

  • Kip Beatty

    Honestly, I don’t think there’s much of a decision. If they want Office to be relevant 10 years from now, it has to run on iOS and Android. The other options (iWork, Google Apps, etc.) are too good now (and getting better), and people will no longer buy a Microsoft device, that isn’t the market share or app leader, just for the privilege of running Word or Excel.

    • TechManMike

      I agree. The problem for Microsft is that people aren’t really buying Windows devices anyway right now, and a lot of the ones that do aren’t buying them for Office. I know it’s two different scenarios, but it’s very similar to RIM not wanting to make BBM cross platform for iOS and Android until it was too late.

  • John

    They have to decide, is Office or Windows more important to them? I see a lot of companies from the inside. Most of them don’t care about Windows, Mac, Linux, or whatever anymore. They do care about Office being everywhere.

    Turn Office into a universal platform. Collaboration, peer-to-peer, storage, the whole shtick. Money in the bank. Office will never be cool but a lot of people still love it. Not me, but, you know, other people.

    Give the Windows team free reign to do something cool without the burden of supporting the Office franchise. Take a leap of faith. If nothing else it will actually inspire the MS employees and their fan base. They also need some time for the Windows team to get their shit together.

    If they want to bring people back to Windows one day then they have to make it easy. iTunes went to Windows so it was easy for you to bring all your stuff with you when you switched to Mac.

    If Office is everywhere then it’ll make the transition to Windows easy if it ever becomes cool again. They need to create that future opportunity now before it goes away.

    In an nutshell. as long they think of Windows and Office as one platform then they are stuck in a quagmire. They have to separate them.

  • lucascott

    Mobile Office is a huge draw for their own hardware. And at this point if they make Office for iOS and it doesn’t knock,it out of the park with features and zero bugs they will get hell for it.

    Frankly I can see why they wouldn’t bother

    • JohnDoey

      No, Microsoft Office is not a huge draw for their own hardware. The way you can tell is that almost nobody uses Windows Phone or Surface right now, and even Windows PC sales are down again this year, and by more than ever.

  • Moeskido

    “So you’ll see us be thoughtful…” = “We’re going to hold off making a decision as long as possible. Nobody near the top wants to stick his neck out in front of the new guy.”

  • JohnDoey

    This shows what is wrong with Microsoft. They are still thinking and talking like a monopolist when the world has moved on from the IBM/Microsoft monopoly on business computing.

    So there is no “thoughtfulness” needed with regards to releasing Word, PowerPoint, and Excel for iPad. The only questions should always have been how fast can they convert their Mac codebase to iPad/iPhone, and how much do they have to sell the apps for to make them profitable?

    It is probably too late now. Office documents have become commoditized just like operating systems and Web browsers. Users buy an iPad or iPhone and they just expect it to have an operating system, a Web browser, and support for viewing and editing office documents. They don’t stop themselves before a hardware purchase and ask, “will this run my favorite operating system or Web browser or office suite?” That just doesn’t happen.

    It’s the same as Blackberry. They spent the first few years of iPad/iPhone being in total denial and by then it was too late to compete. Users had moved on.