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Microsoft sticks it to the iPad with Windows-first Office strategy

Gregg Keizer | June 17, 2013
And it's 'baloney,' says one analyst, fed up with what he calls 'artificial advantaging' that's not helping Windows on tablets

Microsoft's surprise launch of Office Mobile for the iPhone today shows that the software giant continues to favor Windows' future over Office's fortune, analysts said today.

And they just don't get that strategy.

"It's puzzling, [Office] on iPhone but not on iPad," said Frank Gillett of Forrester Research, referring to the Friday launch of Office Mobile for iOS.

Office Mobile for iOS stores documents on SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro, depending on whether the Office 365 subscription is a consumer- or business-grade plan. (Image: Microsoft.)

"They're continuing the artificial advantaging of one product over another to change customer behavior," Gillett said. "We think that's a major mistake. In their eyes, not providing Office for iPad will motivate people to buy Windows tablets. That's baloney. People have already bought iPads. You're going to deny them Office and piss them off? That makes no sense. And it's not helping sort things out any faster for Windows 8 [on tablets]."

Bob O'Donnell of IDC was also mystified about the appearance of Office for the iPhone, but no sign of a native app for the iPad. "It sure seems like their strategy," O'Donnell said of the apparent preference of Windows. "But we think that's the wrong strategy now."

Microsoft, said O'Donnell, believes that Office is key to selling Windows RT hardware, including its own Surface RT. (Office Home & Student RT is bundled with Windows RT.) While he agreed with Microsoft, saying, "Office is really the only benefit [that comes with] Windows RT," and that the surest way to kill the tablet OS would be to release Office for the iPad, he said Windows RT was already on its deathbed.

"Almost every OEM that had a first-generation [Windows RT] product has canceled second-generation products, so we just don't see how it can do well, even with Office,' he said.

If Windows RT can't cut it, O'Donnell suggested, what's the point of sticking to a strategy that's not working?

The iOS app, officially labeled Office Mobile for Office 365 Subscribers, hit the App Store earlier today. While it will run on Retina-equipped iPads and the iPad Mini — all three shipped in 2012 — in a chunky expanded view, the versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint are definitely "iPhone-ized" in that they're designed for the smartphone's smaller screen.

That distinction was critical to Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "They could have Office for the iPad, but they want to emphasize that Windows is the way you get a great experience on tablets. They're holding that back, but it's their set of cards to hold."

Most analysts, including Miller, have concluded that Microsoft decided to withhold Office because the Windows group viewed the suite as a major selling point for its tablets. Meanwhile, the thinking goes, the Office group lobbied for a release on rival platforms by claiming it could book impressive revenue. Windows won the debate.


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