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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

"This is consistent with the prioritization of Windows over Office at Microsoft," said Miller of today's iPhone-centric debut.

By limiting Office Mobile on iOS to the iPhone, said Gillett, Microsoft thinks more of Windows' future than it does about satisfying current Office customers. "It's more important to them to get Windows everywhere than to get Office everywhere," observed Gillett. "But they just need to uncouple the two. It's better to have someone [be] a customer of one of the two then to be a customer of neither."

By refusing to release a native iPad Office app — something that sources have told Gillett has been completed, but put on a shelf — Microsoft risks losing current Office customers, who, frustrated with the lack of Office on the iPad, are turning to alternatives.

"It's just game playing on their part," Gillett said of Microsoft.

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, had a different explanation for the iPhone-only release. "It's not ready yet," he said of a native iPad app, contradicting Gillett. "And they have other priorities, or should have, like getting Office on Android phones. But this will keep Office users happy, and fits Microsoft's strategy of Office working on many different devices."

But if Microsoft's strategy is to use Office as a carrot to tempt customers to stick with Windows, why do Office Mobile for the iPhone now? To Miller, the answer was simple. "The iPhone is benign. It doesn't pose a threat to Windows tablets," he said.

That's because Office Mobile is, not surprisingly, used primarily for document viewing, where the small screen is sufficient. In comments appended to a Friday blog post, Clint Patterson, director of communications for Office, said the most common use of Office Mobile for Windows Phone, which the iPhone version closely resembles, was viewing documents. What customers do beyond that, Patterson added, was only "quick ... on the fly" editing.

IDC's O'Donnell suggested that Windows Phone, which is not part of the Windows division responsible for the desktop and tablet operating systems, was not as powerful internally or able to politick as well, and so lost to the bigger Office group in a release-don't release deliberation.

Obviously, said Gillett. "Microsoft is willing to throw Windows Phone under the bus, but not tablets," he said, referring to the phone platform that until today had Office Mobile exclusivity.

Not everyone saw Office Mobile for the iPhone as a complete disappointment. "It's important that Microsoft did something," O'Donnell said. "I found the timing very interesting. In the same week that Apple announced iWork for iCloud, which is a pretty credible threat to Office on the iPad and iPhone, Microsoft does this."


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