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Perspective: What's Microsoft's Office Web Apps strategy?

Gregg Keizer | Nov. 12, 2013
Last week's addition of real-time collaborative editing counters Google, but positioning of the browser-based Office remains unclear

True. Microsoft recently said it has 2 million subscribers to Office 365 Home Premium, the consumer-grade subscription plan, which translates into annual revenue of approximately $200 million. But that's just 3% of what the Office group pulled in last quarter alone.

The risk of losing that revenue may be less important to Microsoft than staying in front of consumers, who in the workplace part of their lives increasingly choose their own productivity tools. In fact, other analysts have opined that Microsoft may have already lost the consumer battle because of its hesitancy to deliver an iPad edition, and thus the future battle in business. They've pointed to moves by rivals such as Apple and Google as evidence.

By more prominently publicizing Office Web Apps, which Microsoft has promised to do, perhaps Redmond could put a stick in the spokes of those theories.

On one front -- tablets -- it's already tried.

Microsoft's stock answer when asked about Office on rival platforms' tablets, especially the iPad, has long been Office Web Apps. Even CEO Steve Ballmer has leaned on that crutch when Wall Street and industry analysts have brought up Apple's tablet.

There's been no sign, however, that the pitch has met with any appreciable success. "Office Web apps serve until there's an iPad version, but how many users want that?" Silver asked. "It doesn't give you an offline mode or a touch experience."

Microsoft itself seems unsure of the answer. Last week, Microsoft again pledged to bring Android within the Office Web Apps support fold in the coming months. But it's also promised to deliver a touch-enabled Office for other platforms, including, Ballmer has said, the iPad, after it ships the same for Windows 8.1.

So where does that leave Office Web Apps? Good question.


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