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Apple plays defense, Microsoft goes on offense in battle for iPhone customers

Gregg Keizer | June 17, 2013
iWork for iCloud, Office Mobile reveal rivals' different strategies as they both chase iPhone's millions

Microsoft could dampen any enthusiasm for iWork for iCloud by simply better publicizing its Office Web Apps, the limited-function, limited-feature online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint that have a four-year head start. They've been around long enough that many consumers don't even know they're there.

But it's unlikely Microsoft will play the Office Web Apps card; Microsoft loses an Office sale for every customer who realizes he or she can get by with the free online apps. That's even truer now that Microsoft has pitched Office Mobile to the iPhone. If it counters iWork for iCloud with Office Web Apps by talking up its offering, it risks opening users' eyes to the fact that they don't need Office 365 simply to view and edit documents on their Apple smartphones.

Even so, Office is a behemoth in business, where the iPhone has made impressive inroads. Apple, on the other hand, has a poor track record in online, with multiple failures, including a precursor to iWork for iCloud, the abandoned iWork.com. Add to that Apple's ambivalent attitude toward iWork — the last time it updated the OS X version was in 2009 — and the money's on Microsoft.

O'Donnell from IDC wasn't the only analyst to disagree. Gottheil, too, cast iWork for iCloud as a credible threat to Office on iPhone and iPad.

"Microsoft has to be worried about Office, not its enterprise [customers] but those who just buy it to be able to read Office file formats and create small documents," said Gottheil in an interview last week. "iWork for iCloud is a threat there."

Perhaps. But don't bet on it.

 

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