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Nadella's rise renews appeals for Office on iPad, Android tablets

Gregg Keizer | Feb. 7, 2014
New CEO raises hope that Microsoft will free Office from Windows

In a note to clients this week, Forrester elaborated on Schadler's call to Microsoft to release Office from its Windows-only penitentiary.

Forrester: It's time to move
"Rather than tell customers that they need to use Office on a Windows device to realize its full value, listen to the market and build Office to support the platforms your customers are using today," Forrester wrote in that note.

Its analysts argued that while the success of Windows in mobile is crucial to Microsoft, it could not afford to limit Office to that platform and leave potential revenue on the table. "When Microsoft released Office 2013 in October 2012, it strongly hinted that it would make the majority of Office applications available on iOS and Android in the first half of 2013," Forrester said. "It's now 2014 and we're still waiting."

Rival research company IDC also weighed in.

"Nearly 16 months after the launch of the touch-first Windows 8 operating system, Microsoft has still not shipped a version of Office designed to run in the operating system's Modern UI," said IDC. "Plus, it still hasn't shipped ... a version optimized for the Apple iPad."

As has been the case for months — years even — IDC and others believe that Microsoft has declined to sell Office on Android and iOS because the company's devices group sees the suite as a major selling point for its own Windows tablets. Wanting to retain that advantage, the Windows and device teams have blocked the move. Although the group responsible for Office has likely lobbied for a release sooner rather than later, claiming it can book impressive revenue, its arguments have been shot down.

Leaving money on the table?
IDC wasn't the first to call that strategy a failure, only the latest in a long string of similar criticisms. "It's a strategy that has simultaneously failed to drive adoption of these [Windows] devices and put at risk Office's dominance in the business productivity market," IDC contended. "The company is not only leaving a great deal of money on the table, but it's also forcing tablet users to find alternatives to Office."

While that implied push of customers to other choices, including Google's Apps for Business and Apple's now-free iWork suite, may not disrupt Office revenue in developed markets like the U.S., where the Word, Excel and PowerPoint productivity applications have a near-monopoly, IDC speculated that emerging markets would be different.

"[And] eventually these alternatives — including free offerings from Google and Apple — will be good enough, and Microsoft will have lost yet another important market," IDC said. "The new CEO has to consider how to move more aggressively to push Office to non-Windows platforms. Microsoft must come to terms with a new multi-platform world and leverage it to its advantage."


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