Microsoft today announced a full version of Office for the iPad, available later today. The below comment may be attributed to Jan Dawson, Chief Analyst at Jackdaw Research:
You have to think about today’s announcement in several parts. On the one hand, the product Microsoft demoed today looked incredibly impressive, much cleaner and easier to use than any of Microsoft’s other Windows versions. That in itself is a huge step forward, and suggests similar improvements may be coming to touch-based Windows devices like the Surface. But at the same time, Microsoft is coming to this very late, roughly four years after the launch of the iPad, and during those four years people who use iPads have found other ways to get work done, whether third-party apps or Apple’s iWork apps. Many of those apps are free, and at most $15 or so on a one-off basis, while editing documents in Office on the iPad will cost at least $70 a year. The big question is whether people will want to pay that kind of premium for the ability to use a “full” version of Office. So many people whose work lives are iPad-centric have moved away from Office entirely, and Microsoft will now have to win them back. The overlap between the 3.5 million consumer Office 365 subscribers and the 150 million or so iPad users is likely vanishingly small, and Microsoft will have to change that.
The other big challenge for iPad users is how to get documents in and out of Office on the iPad. For anyone who’s used productivity apps on the iPad, they know that in the process of opening, editing and emailing a document, the emailing part can be as painful as the editing. Microsoft is clearly favoring OneDrive as the major way for people to get documents in and out of Office on the iPad, which makes good strategic sense. But it doesn’t necessarily make sense for iPad users, who are much more likely to be invested in iCloud or even Dropbox for document storage.
For all these reasons it’s unlikely that the iPad for Office announcement will make a huge difference either for Microsoft or anyone else. But it does signal a much more significant strategic shift on the part of Satya Nadella. He’s shown a willingness to allow Windows to fade into the background, as demonstrated by both the Office iPad launch and the recent renaming of Azure. That’s critical to Microsoft’s future success, as the obsession with promoting Windows above all else (including its customers’ needs) has been one of the biggest forces holding Microsoft back from success in the mobile space. This recognition, and the change in strategy that have flowed from it, are more significant than any individual product launch Microsoft might announce.