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Microsoft exec scoffs at talk that Apple's free iWork threatens Office

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 24, 2013
Frank Shaw, head of corporate communications, counters media reports, calls iWork suite 'an afterthought' and 'struggling'

Shaw did not call out the most obvious example, that of Apple CEO Tim Cook, who took his own swings at Microsoft yesterday at the iPad launch event.

"Our competition is different," said Cook. "They're confused. They chased after netbooks. Now they're trying to make tablets into PCs, and PCs into tablets. Who knows what they will do next? I can't answer that question. But what I can tell you is that we have a very clear direction and a very ambitious goal. We still believe deeply in this category [of traditional notebooks] and we're not slowing down on our innovation."

Although Cook did not breathe the name "Microsoft," he was clearly aiming his comments at the rival, in particular its Surface tablet strategy.

Office 365
Them's fightin' words! That's how one analyst viewed the slide Apple put on the screen during its Tuesday announcement that its iWork suite would be free to new Mac and iPad buyers. (Image: Apple.)

Shaw struck back, trumpeting the second-generation Surface 2 tablet's price — it replaced the struggling Windows RT-powered Surface RT of 2012 — as lower than any full-sized iPad; and reminding customers that the tablet came with Office apps.

He also called out anyone who dared to compare Office with Apple's iWork suite, which is composed of Pages, Numbers and Keynote. Each app costs $20 on OS X, $10 on iOS, but will be free to new Mac, iPhone and iPad customers.

"It's not surprising that we see other folks now talking about how much 'work' you can get done on their devices," Shaw said. "Adding watered down productivity apps. Bolting on aftermarket input devices. All in an effort to convince people that their entertainment devices are really work machines.

Then he got down to iWork, swatting the suite with each sentence.

"Apple announced yesterday that they were dropping their fees on their 'iWork' suite of apps," said Shaw. "Now, since iWork has never gotten much traction, and was already priced like an afterthought, it's hardly that surprising or significant a move. And it doesn't change the fact that it's much harder to get work done on a device that lacks precision input and a desktop for true side-by-side multitasking."

The tit-for-tat between Apple and Microsoft wasn't new, nor unexpected, said Moorhead. "These are two iconic companies, so what they say does get attention even outside the technology media," he said.

More importantly, said Moorhead, contrary to Shaw's tone — he was dismissive of any threat to either the Surface or Office, especially the latter, from the iPad and iWork — by eliminating the price for its suite Apple does threaten to Microsoft.


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