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Microsoft inches toward Office on iPad, Android tablets

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 23, 2013
Windows-first strategy remains sacrosanct, but 'We don't have our heads in the sand,' says Ballmer.

"[Touch Office] is coming much later than they should have done to make Metro a success last year," said Silver, referring to the "Modern" user interface within Windows, called "Metro" until mid-2012 when Microsoft dropped it under pressure from a German retailer who holds that trademark. "And there's been a pretty attractive market [for a touch-enabled Office] for a long time. Had they done this well before now, [Office] might have been able to get through."

Most outsiders have pointed out that the longer Microsoft waits to port Office to the two most popular mobile platforms, Android and iOS, the more it risks losing that market to alternatives, ranging from Google's Quickoffice to Apple's iWork.

Recently, however, there's been pushback by other analysts, who see Microsoft's hold on the enterprise productivity market as, if not invincible then at the very least much less vulnerable than its less lucrative consumer and small business sales of Office.

In fact, both Moorhead and Silver agreed that Office in the enterprise isn't going anywhere any time soon.

Moorhead, for example, believes that Microsoft can still carve out a tablet business in corporations thanks to its Office franchise. "Android and iPad are not an unassailable threat in the enterprise today," he said. "I believe [Microsoft's] answer, and what HP and Dell are doing in tablets, are going to minimize the threat."

Microsoft uses well-worn arguments to good effect, Moorhead said, by pointing out Android's shaky security history and the difficulty of managing, provisioning and deploying non-Windows devices within enterprises.

Silver agreed. "Enterprises would still like a manageable platform," he said. "And the limitations of alternate products has maintained an appetite for Windows versions."

Even so, there are trends that should give Microsoft pause, Silver counseled. The consumerization of IT, and the bring-your-own-device model that represents that trend, could unseat Microsoft.

"The problem is that knowledge workers now have more power about what devices they use," noted Silver. Microsoft has to prove to them, as consumers, that it supports its services and software on non-Windows platforms. "As Microsoft tries to sell Office 365 to enterprises, ...if it can't run on the most popular platforms, that could have a negative impact on their ability to sell," Silver added.

Microsoft's executives realize that they have fewer tools and procedures to sell to consumers, or the business workers who behave like consumers. "...It's a lot trickier to have a high-popularity service with the consumer," Ballmer said last week.

And from the comments made last week, Microsoft "gets it" on mobile: Several, including Ballmer, acknowledged they're way behind in mobile. Not surprisingly, they countered with promises to do better, to be smarter.

 

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