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Microsoft's Office for iPad Shakes Up Mobile Enterprise

Tom Kaneshige | April 16, 2014
It's hard to overstate the impact of the Microsoft Office for iPad. The arrival of the dominant productivity suite on the dominant tablet promises to change how iPads are viewed in the enterprise. Office for iPad may also crush competitive apps, shut out cloud storage providers and limit MDM vendors.

Sun Setting on Third-Party Apps, Cloud Storage and MDM Vendors?

Pity the third-party apps that resembled Office on the iPad. They had their day in the sun as Microsoft hemmed and hawed about delivering Office for iPad. With Satya Nadella's ascension to the Microsoft CEO post, though, a dramatic shift in strategy from mobile devices to cloud got underway, culminating in the arrival of Office for iPad, which will be devastating to third-party productivity apps.

The second group likely to get rattled will be popular third-party cloud storage apps such as Dropbox and Box. Where will all the Office on iPad documents be stored? There's only one answer: on Microsoft OneDrive. Office for iPad doesn't support Open-in for Dropbox and other storage services. You can't share documents with iWork and other productivity apps, either.

While third-party productivity apps and storage services stand squarely on the firing line, the next group to feel the heat might be MDM vendors. In one of the fastest-growing enterprise market segments, MDM enables BYOD by letting companies manage and secure mobile devices, apps and data.

Here's just a sampling of MDM functions: prevent cut and paste, remotely wipe data, control what certified apps can open documents, support for tunneling and managing per app VPN.

With Office for iPad tied to Enterprise Mobility Suite, Microsoft has grabbed the pole position in MDM.

"One of the big issues for enterprises about these Office for iPad apps, which are instantly becoming the most popular apps on the iPad, is that you cannot get a version which is secured by any of these (third-party) MDM vendors," Cohen says. "I think it's going to be interesting to see how the ecosystem on BYOD is going to evolve."

Right now, Office for iPad needs to flow through Enterprise Mobility Suite, Cohen says. Microsoft's MDM suite is a reduced-price package of existing software: Azure Active Directory for identity management, Windows Intune for MDM (across Android, iOS and Windows devices) and PC management, and Azure Rights Management for data protection.

MDM Players: We're Not Dead Yet'

Some third-party MDM vendors disagree and counter that they can work with Office for iPad and secure the apps and data.

AirWatch, for instance, claims that customers wanting to leverage Office for iPad can open documents from AirWatch's Secure Content Locker, which allows customers to secure, manage, edit and annotate documents within the app across file types.

MobileIron Vice President of Strategy Ojas Rege says MobileIron can secure Office for iPad in several ways: It can distribute it securely through MobileIron's Apps@Work enterprise App Store as a managed app, it can enable the IT admin to delete the app and prevent authorized apps from accessing corporate data in Office, and it can connect Office securely to corporate SharePoint servers. (Here's a MobileIron video showing how to do the latter.)


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