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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

Nadella will have to decide when to ditch the current strategy of keeping Office locked into Windows on mobile — there seems little chance that that will not happen — and outsiders continued to urge him to pull the trigger soon.

"I would be surprised if the new CEO didn't want to proliferate Microsoft's apps on non-Windows platforms," said Melissa Webster of IDC, in a recent interview. "There certainly are other apps to edit content on your iPad, but people want to use the tools they're familiar with. I think the big question is how much they fit into a [touch-first] Office app."

Windows first
Others warned Microsoft not to give the non-Windows mobile Office, or worse, the apps targeting Windows, short shrift. "Microsoft has said 'Windows first and best,'" said Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a small research company that tracks just Microsoft. "But it can't risk making Office elsewhere a second-class Office experience, as is Office on the Mac."

The most that Microsoft has done so far for owners of Android and iOS is to release skeletal smartphone versions of the primary Office apps for smartphones that are operational only for those who have subscribed to an Office 365 "rent-not-own" plan.

Office on mobile, then, is not only being used as a Windows carrot, but doing duty as the same for Office 365. Most analysts believe that even if Microsoft cuts the cord between Office and Windows, it won't do the same to the cords that bind Office on mobile to Office 365.

Miller, for one, believes that a more feature-laden Office on Android tablets and iPads will help Microsoft grow the subscription rolls of Office 365. But he warned that even then, Office 365 faces a long battle winning over enterprises, who have been mostly disinterested in the subscription concept.

At the same time, that means Office 365's biggest opportunities may be ahead of it.

"For a bigger organization to take advantage of Office 365 is very complicated. They've invested in Exchange, SharePoint and Lync, and there's a lot of heavy lifting to change," said Miller. "Many are still taking a wait-and-see position."

 

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