Below is an article I just wrote for my current employer MSC Mobility.

Last week finally saw the arrival of Microsoft Office on the iPad. Big deal? Yes a very big deal.

The last few years have seen many Office competitors born, acquired and some go on to become very successful. Documents To Go by Dataviz was the name that started it all in mobile office editors and was so popular on BlackBerry that RIM acquired Dataviz in 2010. At that stage Docs To Go was also one of the leading iPad Office editing offerings on the market which made this acquisition an interesting one as RIM was searching for an answer to consumerisation. Not to be left out Google acquired QuickOffice in 2012 with the aim of making the online Google Apps suite of products connect with mobile devices more natively. Citrix acquired Byte Squared (Makers of Office2 ) in 2013 to integrate with their ShareFile product to offer secure mobile editing end to end, and throughout all of this Polaris Office had been shipping on Samsung devices since 2011. Apple decided to get serious in 2013 offering free Pages, Keynote and Numbers with any new iPad or iPhone purchase.

 

So is there a market for Office editing on iPad? Absolutely yes. Has anyone taken the lead position? Absolutely not.

 

Unfortunately no product to date has been able to format (render) an Office document correctly 100% of the time. On countless occasions I have seen many weird and wonderful wonky representations of Excel charts, PowerPoint presentations and Word documents. Just recently I opened MSC’s monthly numbers that were emailed to me on an Android Tablet with the latest version of Polaris Office and was so convinced that the sender had sent the wrong sheet out I asked them to re check it and send again. Polaris Office had completely transposed the numbers and the chart was trending down not up. Imagine a board meeting with company projections heading in the wrong direction because the software screwed it up. Disastrous. Due this this ongoing inadequacy we have seen ‘rendering offerings’ come to the market. Two worthy of calling out are SlideShark which renders PowerPoint perfectly in iPad or iPhone via some sneaky magic on the server and NetApp Connect (formally ionGrid Stratos) which renders all of the Microsoft Office suite perfectly on an iPad. Once again this is via some server side coding to make up for the poor job done by native iPad formatting. The 3rd alternative is to use a remote access service such as, Citrix or CloudOn as 2 examples. These fix the formatting issues but come with a raft of their own issues around usability such as right click options and performance over the WAN.

 

So with Microsoft finally turning up for the game on iPad are all of these now B or C grade at best? Will you still be happy with that table of contents that is all out of whack, an image that is in the wrong spot or Excel chart that you are just not sure is correct? Would you still buy a 3rd party app knowing that Microsoft Office is available for free for viewing only?

 

My hat goes off to Microsoft for their execution of version 1 of Office on iPad. A great easy to use client that focuses on the core needs of a mobile user and that will continue to get better over time. Most importantly pixel perfect formatting of the entire Office suite. No more doubting the software.

 

It is however the backend that I am more interested in which seems a bit strange given the points raised. As we saw with the iPad coming in from the top of the enterprise down will this move by Microsoft spur the largest and fastest take-up of a new version of Office in the enterprise in history? I think it will.

 

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I am picturing C level execs in a board meeting comparing notes on their iPads and observing an exec with iPad Office and more importantly Office 365 to support the editing of documents showing the other C level execs how ‘cool it is’. In other words the leaders of the enterprise selling to other leaders. The consumerisation of IT at its best. These executives will undoubtedly go back to their organisations and ask, ‘When are we moving to Office 365. I want it.’ Just like they did in the early days of what I called the ‘iFad era’ where we saw PA’s of executives from government and enterprise lining up to purchase the latest iPad on launch day, just because.

 

So back to the title of this article, ‘Is the iPad the best thing for Microsoft’. Absolutely it is. I believe we will look back on 2014 and attribute Office arriving on the iPad as being one of the major compelling reasons that Office 365 became the fastest adopted Office upgrade by the enterprise in history and as such lead the transition of Microsoft from a legacy software licencing vendor to a major cloud, services and subscription player. With a new leader at the helm of Microsoft, this is a win for Apple, and a win for Microsoft a win for iPad users everywhere.

 

Go to www.appstore.com/microsoftoffice from your iPad to test it out for yourself.


… AND JUST 10 DAYS LATER.

Wow my predictions don’t usually come true this fast but here it is http://mdm.sc/1qjQFiO The Queensland Government looks like they are the 1st state government to jump on the Office 365 bandwagon.  Who will be next?

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