Microsoft Office is not sexy. I know that. But what it lacks in sex, it more than makes up for in utility. A good percentage of the folks in your enterprise use it every day. Office is like an old pair of jeans -- they may have holes in them or be covered in paint splotches, but there is no way you’re throwing them out. Everyone needs a pair of old jeans and everyone needs Office. So why is Microsoft denying it to us on our mobile devices?
Yet again, Microsoft has denied rumors that it has readied a version of Microsoft Office for delivery to the Apple App Store later in the week. The company's response was unequivocal that it was based on “inaccurate rumors and speculation.” The New York Times in reporting the denial was one of many speculating that Microsoft is holding a mobile form of Office for its Windows 8 mobile release. It may believe it is central to its success in mobile and tablet computing.
OK, fair enough, and you can’t blame Microsoft for trying. But let me try to spread some of my own speculation and possibly start some inaccurate rumors.
Microsoft Office alone is not enough to get people to switch to Windows phones and tablets in the enterprise. Ease of connection to other Microsoft enterprise applications will not be enough. To get people to buy Windows 8 devices, they’ll have to be good, and more importantly, they’ll have to be cool. What are the chances that they’ll be cool?
And I’ve got a newsflash for Microsoft -- we’ve been living without Office on Android, iOS, and BlackBerry for years now. Apps like QuickOffice work fine. You don’t think we can go without you forever?
It shows that Microsoft misses the boat on exactly what people do with mobile devices. Sure, in a pinch, you can hook up a keyboard to a tablet and make a big Powerpoint presentation or Word document on one. But that isn’t really anyone’s plan. Sure, you could read an Excel spread sheet on a four-inch screen if you eat your carrots every day. But why would you want to? Office is for production. Tablets and phones are for consumption.
Even if Windows 8 has the magic ingredient to make mobile devices all about production (which, indeed would be a winning formula), why keep Office exclusive to your platform? You’ve never done it before. Office has been available for MacOS for ages. It only boosts sales. By denying an Office app for the millions of devices out there, Microsoft is denying itself potentially billions. Cisco is predicting that there will be more mobile devices than people by the end of the year. Almost none of them will have Microsoft Office installed. How crazy is that, considering the last PC I owned without Office on it was a Commodore 64?
Microsoft is betting an awful lot on Windows 8 in the mobile space. But what I think the Redmond folk don’t realize (or if they do, they’re making a big gamble) is that they are actually betting on the future of Office itself. Without Office on Android, iOS, and BlackBerry, we’re learning to get by without it. What if we do the same thing on our PCs?