Microsoft's ubiquitous Office productivity suite's arrival on the iPad late last month means many things. It debunks the myth that the iPad is a consumer device used only for consumption. It catapults the iPad into the enterprise spotlight, threatening to displace the venerable laptop as the knowledge worker's preferred computer. It might even sound the death knell for Microsoft Surface tablets, whose only real value proposition from an end user's point of view was the potential for killer Office apps (which hasn't happened yet).
Most importantly, Office for iPad brings us back to the glory days of tech's most celebrated and, at times, despised two-horse race: Apple versus Microsoft.
In those days, Mac battled PC for computing dominance. In today's version, Apple's iWork and Microsoft's Office for iPad are the closed systems that leave little room for third-party productivity apps such as Google's Quickoffice and Citrix's Office2HD, third-party storage services such as Box and Dropbox, and third-party management software such as MobileIron and Airwatch.
Earth-Shaking iPad App
"Office for the iPad is an earthquake," says Yaacov Cohen, co-founder and CEO at Harmon.ie, which develops enterprise mobile collaboration software and recently won the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2014 App Award for best international application.
There's no question that Office for iPad's arrival threatens to shake up mobility's enterprise landscape. At the epicenter lies Microsoft's throwback strategy of wielding ubiquitous software to capture related markets: Office for the iPad is tied exclusively to Microsoft's Office 365 cloud software services, Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage, and, possibly, Microsoft's Enterprise Mobility Suite for mobile device management (MDM).
"It's actually really smart, really well-done," Cohen says. Harmon.ie's collaboration app sits somewhat on the sidelines having strong partnerships with MobileIron, Good Technology, Microsoft and others.
Microsoft's Office for iPad app suite, which echoes the integrated-suite-vs-best-of-breed debate, is a compelling one for CIOs, given the pervasiveness of Office, the rapid rise of the iPad and the fairly commoditized third-party cloud storage and MDM services.
Released in late March, the long-awaited Office for iPad instantly became a hit in the tablet world where work and play often blend on a single device in a sweeping computing trend known as BYOD.
Despite Office on the iPad's shortcomings — Infoworld offers a listing them — the roar of the vast Office installed base has been deafening. More than 12 million people downloaded Office for iPad in the first week, even though Office for iPad requires a $100 per year subscription compared to iWork, which is free on newer Apple devices and costs $10 per app on older devices.
All signs point to an explosion of Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations on the iPad.
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